Book Number: 40/40
You read the above correctly- I completed my GoodReads 2017 Challenge- YAY!! Obviously, I’m going to continue book-worming my way into the new year, but I’m so excited that I’ve officially read 40 books and counting.
Book number 40 was a special read; this year’s Book Number One was Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. At first, I was seriously hesitant to read it, worrying that it would be some kind of tumblr-esque drivel. When just about every other twenty-something girl and their auntie’s cat have decided to Instagram the crap out of a book, it makes you wonder, you know? But I read it, and honestly? I thought it was pretty good. I can understand the hype behind it- this is a very quotable book. I loved Kaur’s use of words, and how she’s able to accurately assemble words together in a way that describes emotions which cans sometimes feel indescribable. The little illustrations were also a nice touch.
So having enjoyed the first volume so much, you can bet your favourite mug and matching teapot I was excited to hear that Kaur was bringing out another book in October this year. I didn’t pre-order it, but am now glad I didn’t in the end- Chris and I found a copy in Easons on special offer on the release day, AND got student discount off it too. Eat that, Amazon!
the sun and her flowers was highly anticipated, and like many Kaur fans, I was nervous. What if it wasn’t as good as milk and honey? What was she going to write about this time? For me, milk and honey tied everything up pretty neatly- it was a collection about love, heartbreak, and the aftermath of breaking up with someone. It was a series of poems which told a story, and that story was powerful and resolved. Whatever would she write about now?
In the end, I had nothing to worry about. the sun and her flowers has similar vibes, but Kaur also explores the interesting themes of being a foreigner, being the child of immigrants, and her Indian background. I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies a few years ago, with very little knowledge about Indian culture, and I have to say, I adored it. I feel as though Kaur’s work was an extension of my education about a culture I previously knew nothing about.
Two elements of this work really stood out for me- firstly, the writer’s relationship with her mother. Kaur doesn’t shy away from her awareness that she has had a much more privileged life than her mother; she understands that, because of the sacrifices her mother made, Kaur has been able to lead a very comfortable life. She focuses on the difficulties that her mother has faced- moving from India to the US, giving birth to a daughter instead of a son, the excessive amount of work she had to do to provide just to keep her family afloat. Her descriptions of these challenges help the reader to understand just why her mother is her hero, and why she deserves to have a large chunk of the book dedicated to her.
The other element which really stayed with me after finishing the book, was an aspect of her culture which I had no idea about. Of course, we read stories of people from the UK who, even into the Victorian era, ‘wanted a son’, and daughters were often unwanted or mistreated for being born a girl. I had no idea the extent to which this was a problem many Indian women faced-; according to Kaur’s writing, they experienced the joy of being pregnant, the pain of childbirth, the reward of giving birth. But if that baby was a little girl, there was, at times, a chance she would’ve been killed. I cried as I read sections about the needless murder of these defenceless babies, and my heart broke for all of those poor women who had to deal with such cruel pain.
I think as a feminist, this book gives you a lot to think about. The stark difference between Kaur’s life and that of her mother, really makes you appreciate the sacrifices of the strong women who came before us. It forces us to think about those women who are perhaps stuck in certain “roles”, unable to experience the same freedom that we take for granted.
I’m deliberately not going into massive detail about the book because I encourage you to go and read it for yourself- get your teeth stuck in and i guarantee you, you’ll find it hard to put down! I left this book feeling a higher sense of pride of being female, appreciation for the strength that being a woman takes, both physically and mentally, and just a real burst of relief that the book didn’t disappoint!
My favourite quote was definitely the one I’m including below; you can interpret it in many different ways, and when I read it, I thought of my own troubles the past year or so. I realised that in many ways, the challenges I’ve went through were my own wilting, falling, rooting and rising, in order that I could bloom again. Not ashamed to admit I’ve shed a tear or so over that!
Have you guys read this book? Or milk and honey? If so, let me know your thoughts!