Friday 18 June 2010

Book Review: Jasvinder Sanghera - Shame

Jasvinder Sanghera is the founder of Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports South Asian women suffering from domestic abuse and honour-based violence. This book details her own story and what led to her drive to set up a charity for Asian women in particular.

Sanghera describes her upbringing in Derby amongst the South Asian and particularly Sikh community with her strict, religious mother. She outlines what it means to be one of many daughters in a community that favours sons (something that I could relate to) and the sense of injustice that this breeds.

Her description of her childhood and teenage years effectively captures the claustrophobic and restrictive aspects of British South Asian culture for many people in the last few decades – not being able to engage in the same activities as your brothers or English friends and classmates, not being able to have the same aspirations for your future because everything has to fit around marriage.

Matters come to a head for Sanghera when she finds that she cannot face marrying the man her mother has picked for her as a teenager, especially after seeing the misery and abuse her older sisters’ married lives brings.

This prompts her to run away with a young man she has fallen in love with and begin a life of loneliness, rejection and poverty until she finds that there are other options open to her than those she was raised to look forward to.

This is no straightforward rags-to-riches type story. Sanghera doesn’t have a revelation overnight and then change her life completely. This is a gruelling and at times painfully honest tale of depression, rejection, abuse and the misogynistic views of many South Asian women to women in their own community.

Sanghera describes two failed marriages, her struggle to educate herself, her battle for acceptance from her family and her struggle to raise her children in difficult circumstances. I found that the book gets really interesting though when she explains how she became involved in community work and started meeting South Asian women who had undergone all sorts of abuse but were not getting the help they needed due to language barriers, racism and lack of cultural understanding on the part of support services. This led to her resolve to start a specialist service and Karma Nirvana was born.

A down-to-earth, honest and insightful book, written in plain language and straight from the authors heart.


  1. Thank you for sharring, I think i will try to get my hands on this book. i felt I could relate to many of the themes you mentioned and its a thing of my past I have happily burried but remains in my mind when reminded.

  2. You know this skewed, scary reality extends to so many communities.
    Thanks for highlighting it in this book review.
    Daughters are diamonds.
    Alhamdulillah Islam eradicated the pre-jahiliyyah belief that daughters / females are lesser than.

  3. Anonymous24 May, 2012

    i really want to read this iv read daughthers of shame and now letting a freind borrow it to read i guess its somthing i needed to lend to my freind beacuse she can realte to cant wait to get this 1 beacuse i know its going to be exciting and scary then going to lend my freind after