May 14, 2012

On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe

Recently I have been reading many Indian authors and wanted to read a book set outside the Indian subcontinent. This is how I came to pick up this book while browsing through some blog reviews.

Set in the red light district of Brussels, four women from various parts of Africa end up serving clients as prostitutes, and living a life unknown to them and searching for the riches which they came in quest of. Each of their story is unique, broken home, teenage pregnancy, war crimes and incest. It is a small yet different world which each of these ladies share with the reader. One of the women die mysteriously, and her only fault was that she tried to come out of the system and have a life which would be deemed normal in the eyes of the world. She befriends a man who would like to be part of her life knowing her complete story, and this again is her fault. She is to have sold her life to the pimps who make money off her and nothing can stop this money from flowing in.

Each of these women have a story to tell and a life to speak of which they left behind them when they chose to come to Europe and work as a prostitute. Each of them left out of frustration, hunger, poor living conditions and when they see what they are offered here in terms of food and a roof over them, in return selling their body seems a small price to pay.

When I read this novel, all I could think of was how it was always the same story for women wherever they are in this world. They are treated as a source of pleasure, a route to procreation, someone to turn to and demand anything. But, never are they given control over their lives. The language of the book is simple but the style is very different from anything I have read till date. There is a difference in the language which I do now know what to attribute to except for the ethnicity of the author. There are many words which are used in the native dialects of the characters which also lends a great deal of depth to the story. It makes one absorb the culture and you also appreciate e author's true story through the use of foreign language. 

This is not a book which I would term as depicting a feminist viewpoint, as all it does portray is the struggle women endure and the atrocities they are subjected to. It shows women who have chosen a path which is so difficult. but they are left with no choice and each with their own pushing factors, walk down the path which they never thought they would. I was drawn to this book primarily as it was a completely new author for me, but I enjoyed reading this book and seeing the point of view of women and how a circumstance, a single circumstance, can throw your life hay-wire. 

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