Afghanistan women have been viewed as passive casualties of the Middle East’s ongoing brutality and conflict. A Thousand Glorious Suns, a popular novel by Khalid Hosseini, is a Bormannian fantasy-themed book that conveys the positivity of women in the sense of Afghanistan culture. Mariam and Laila are two women drawn together by war, loss, and destiny. They have to deal with the ever-increasing dangers that surround their homes and the streets of Kabul. The trials and tribulations forge a sister and mother-daughter relationship that eventually transforms the course of their lives and the lives of future generations. It is a story that is heart-wrenching and full of suspense, a “compelling story of the Middle East culture and how it affects women. This 2007 tells a story about Mariam, an illegitimate child who suffers from stigma due to her birth and the abuses she has suffered throughout her marriage. Laila is born in a latter generation and is relatively privileged until the lives of the two characters intersect and Laila is forced to accept a marriage proposal from Mariam’s husband Rasheed (Hosseini, 2008).
The Wild Swans: The Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang is a Chinese family story that spans a century, recounting the lives of three female generations in the Chinese culture. The book was published in 1991 and it contains the biographies of the author’s self, mother and grandmother. The book begins with the story of Chang’s grandmother, Yu Fang whom at the age of two, suffered molestation where her feet were bound in a painful process that hindered her feet from growing normally. This is a common practice in China that was inflicted on female children whose tiny feet were considered beautiful. Since the family was poor, the Father decides to take the daughter as a concubine of a warlord, Generak Xue Zhi-heng. The General had many concubines and therefore after the wedding ceremony, the young lady was left in exquisite accommodations with servants and never saw her husband again for six years (Chang, 1992).
Most common themes developed in these books are suffering and perseverance women, home ties, hope and oppression, gender relations. None of the characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns are strangers to pain and suffering, be it emotional or physical. Laila and Mariam portray the kind of suffering women in Afghanistan willingly endure in the service of men. The author creates a hierarchy of grief and suffering where for instance, Laila loses her brothers after they were allowed to fight the Mujahedeen, which is worse than the rocket that killed her friend Giti. Laila’s mother, Fariba (Mammy) takes refuge in her bedroom after the death of her sons and she is overcome by her grief to death. Laila, now as an orphan, is left with no other option than to marry Rasheed (Hosseini, 2008, p. 48). The novel develops the perseverance theme in women over the immobilization that can be a result of suffering. The women’s endurance in Afghanistan is shown when Laila for instance, submits willingly to the beatings by the Taliban for traveling alone as a woman just so that she can be able to see and spend time with her daughter Aziza at the orphanage (Hosseini, 2008, p. 76).
Perseverance is a similar case in the Wild Swans. When Chang’s mother was a teenager, the revolution began and even though she recoiled from the barbaric brutality, she willingly joined the Red Guards. As the Mao cult grew, the more the difficult and dangerous it became. Chang’s mother was labeled as a capitalist roader and was made a public torture subject. Her father also died from the torture. Chang was sent to the countryside for education and after earning a place in the university, Mao died (Chang, 1992, p. 212)
Gender relations is a dominant theme in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini emphasizes the certain aspects of the Afghan culture which differ from the media’s narrative. The novel, has in fact drawn on the imposed limitations among women in Afghanistan in how they have lived, endured and subverted from the constraints they have been set. Gender relations have differed throughout the book due to the varying occupying forces and accompanying laws. Under the communist, girls are allowed to attend school and to work outside their homes. However, they are extremely discouraged from spending too much time with the opposite sex members before marriage. For instance, Mariam is required by her husband Rasheed to wear a burqa, which shows the dependency of gender relations on specific regional or traditional norms. Men like Laila’s brother, on the other hand, go off to fight while women stay back at home to deal with the war repercussions (Hosseini, 2008, p. 67). The arrival Mujahedeen, a communism system, changes the relatively liberal restrictions on women, where they are denied the freedom of speech and movement under the new regime. Characters make attempts to subvert from the oppressing norms, where for instance Mariam plans an escape whole Laila sneaks across town to see her child in the orphanage.
On the other hand, in the Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, a portrait of the traditional China’s case on women has been well painted. Historically, Confucian teachings facilitated a patriarchal society in which women were to obey their husbands and grown sons. Chinese women were deprived nearly of all rights and their existence was purposely to serve men. Consistent present demographics have even shown that female infants and children had fewer chances of survival to adulthood. Female infants were victims of infanticide and some were sold to wealthy families or brothels. Bound feet were customary for most women. Throughout the thousands of years in Chinese history, it was common for men to have a wife and various concubines. By covering three generations of her family in the book, Chang shows the many changes that China experienced especially on women. In 1909, Chang’s grandmother was being bartered as a warlord’s concubine to whom her father had sold to (Chang, 1992, p. 12).
Somalia and Bangladesh Cultural Information
Nearly all Somalis are Sunni Moslems meaning they practice Islam which is their belief system, culture, government and their way of life. The Somalis share a common language known as Somali and they live at the horn of Africa. The Somali culture is an amalgamation of traditions developed independently through the interaction of neighborhoods and distant civilizations. The information about the culture has been well written by (Lewis & Hussein, 2017)
The culture of Bangladesh has evolved over centuries to incorporate the cultural diversity of the various social groups in Bangladesh. The culture is composite and over time, it has assimilated influences from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. More information about the Bengali culture can be found in (VisitBangladesh, 2015)
A century ago women from China and the Afghanistan had similarities regarding their status in the society. One is that women were subordinate to men. China women followed a belief system, the Confucianism which is based on the five relationships which advocate for women’s low societal status and subordination. In Afghanistan, the Islam religion was the system base that warranted the treatment of women at the lowest status. Both systems endorsed patriarchy and gender relations that gave women the roles of the homemaker and child rearing. The societies in the Neolithic era constantly considered women as subordinates and due to civilization and specialization of labor.
Chang, J. (1992). Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. London: Anchor Paperback.
Hosseini, K. (2008). A thousand splendid suns. London: Bloomsbury.
Lewis, T., & Hussein, K. (2017). Somali Cultural Profile. Retrieved from EthnoMed: https://ethnomed.org/culture/somali/somali-cultural-profile
VisitBangladesh. (2015). About Bangladesh; Culture, Religion. Retrieved from Visit Bangladesh: http://visitbangladesh.gov.bd/about-bangladesh/culture-religion-language/