Because I Am a Girl (32/52 books challenge)

Because I Am a GirlFor a person who generally does not like short stories, I’ve been reading quite a few of those recently. Oh, well. This is the last collection, though.

                I have always hated generalizations. Ranging from those that say every woman is a bad driver, or every German person loves order, or every American citizen wears a gun. I’ve also never liked numbers. Millions of girls are suffering from poverty and sexual abuse. 70% of women in impoverished countries suffer from domestic violence. It’s terrifying, but it doesn’t get to my heart. It doesn’t move me the way it should, because it’s mostly about the numbers. Nameless faces in faraway country, and it makes it harder to believe it happens every day. Yes, it does scare me, but it’s a little impersonal.

                That’s where I was hoping this book comes in. I was hoping it would make it personal, emotional, it would give names and personal stories with details. It would give faces to the numbers.

                Well, it didn’t.

                Equal rights, feminism, women’s emancipation are a part of Western life. I know that there is still something to do even in these countries, but it’s common that girls study at universities, choose their husband, can go to police to report rape, can be economically independent and can vote. It’s so deeply rooted in our culture that we forget it hasn’t always been like this. We forget all these centuries where women were nothing, a cursed sex. We say it were the Middle Ages, where people weren’t enlightened, were kept in the dark. Uncivilized world. After all, this is the XXI century.

                And in this XXI century, in the exact same time as one woman can be Great Britain’s prime minister, if you go South to Africa, or East to Asia, you will still find a completely different world. A world where a woman is still something worse. Often, not even someone, but something. In this understanding, books like Because I Am a Girl are very much needed. Seven writers, representing the British organization “Plan,” went to those countries, met these women and wrote stories about them. Unfortunately, personally think it was a wasted opportunity. Most of those stories are too emotionless and forgettable. In my humble opinion.

                Anyway – the authors are: Joanne Harris, Irvine Welsh, Kathy Lette, Xiaolu Guo, Tim Butcher, Marie Phillips, Deborah Moggach  and below is the cover of the Polish edition.

urodziłam sie dziewczynka

  1. “The song of the Road.” The writer describes an every-day life of a 16-year-old girl, who had to quit her education to work and support her family. So far so good – meaning this is the purpose of this book – but it was really hard to read, with too many metaphors, and at the end I felt it made no sense at all.
  2. “Bendu’s Dream.” It’s about a girl whose childhood was destroyed by war. It vaguely touches the subject of circumcision (should be done more deeply, IMHO).
  3. “A woman with a shop on her head.” About a seemingly perfect marriage. Quite interesting, but I felt like it didn’t deal with the problems described above. Also, for me it felt a little out of place.
  4. “Hormonal roulette.” It’s the best in my opinion. It’s about a difficult situation in Brazil, where teen pregnancies are a rule; children are victims of rape on daily basis, and prostitution is thriving. I think these problems were best presented in this story.
  5. “Ballad about a man from Cambodia.” The worst in my opinion. It had an interesting concept of a lost daughter, who was found many years later after living in the forest, in the wild. Totally unnecessary in a collection like that. I mean, if that was a boy, it wouldn’t change much, right? It’d still be a missing child. Also, too short and too vague; unsatisfying.
  6. “A change” – the author describes her journey to Uganda, where she saw children’s prostitution and problems of lack of education, because the young are forced to quit at early age. Again, I felt it was done too carelessly.
  7. “Debts.” – the author tells her life story, her difficult relations with her family, her desire to achieve something more than to have a child at too early age. Quite interesting.
  8. “The Answer” – is not a story, but a description of the Plan’s organization, structure, aim and activities. Again, a little too little.

Overall, it’s an important book about an important subject, but it could – should – have been done better. It’s written too carelessly, and from a reader’s point of view it’s not satisfying. It’s sort of about everything and about nothing. Doesn’t move the way it should. Instead we get a story about a wild girl – interesting enough, but out of place – then a story that wants to be a poem; them a story about perceived cheating, which could have happened in any Western country, and some stories about prostitution and hard work, inadequately written. One or two stories were really good, but it’s not enough.

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