With social media being full of Bad Men Saying Stupid and Hurtful Shit, you're probably asking yourself why I'd read a book like this, which basically exemplifies female objectification at its worst, running the gamut of topics such as sex trafficking, sexual abuse and assault, forced marriage, colorism, mutilation, and other grim facets stemming from gender inequality.
Well, because these issues are real issues - and with some people doing their damnedest to silence the victims or others sweeping this unpleasantness under the carpet for being too unsavory, I think it's really important that these stories get heard. Because it's easier to ignore statistics than it is to ignore a visceral reaction.
GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER is a work of fiction, but I imagine that it matches the stories of girls in India who are struggling to overcome racism, sexism, classism, and poverty. Poornima and Savitha are two Indian girls who end up becoming friends. Both of them are poor, although Savitha is poorer, but they are united in their strength and their anger.
Over the course of the book, many, many, many terrible things happen to these to girls. They end up separated, and bad quickly turns to worse. I actually posted a status update expressing my bewilderment at the awfulness of their situations, asking if it could get darker than it was - and yes, it did. I think the last book I read that disturbed me so much was Yaa Gyasi's HOMEGOING.
What I loved about this book was the beautiful writing and the slow burn of the girls' anger. Fire and burning is a leitmotif in this novel, which you might guess from the title: sexual awakening, rage, actual fire (or physical sensations approximating it), and fear. Poornima and Savitha are constantly burning, and it is this flame that keeps them going even when everything seems lost, in their goal to find one another and escape their horrible situations, no matter what it takes.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars