The dancing girls of Lahore inhabit the Diamond Market in the shadow of a
great mosque. The twenty-first century goes on outside the walls of this ancient
quarter but scarcely registers within. Though their trade can be described with
accuracy as prostitution, the dancing girls have an illustrious history: Beloved
by emperors and nawabs, their sophisticated art encompassed the best of Mughal
culture. The modern-day Bollywood aesthetic, with its love of gaudy spectacle,
music, and dance, is their distant legacy. But the life of the pampered
courtesan is not the one now being lived by Maha and her three girls. What they
do is forbidden by Islam, though tolerated; but they are gandi,
"unclean," and Maha's daughters, like her, are born into the business
and will not leave it.
Sociologist Louise Brown spent four years in the most intimate study of the
family life of a Lahori dancing girl. With beautiful understatement, she turns a
novelist's eye on a true story that beggars the imagination. Maha, a classically
trained dancer of exquisite grace, had her virginity sold to a powerful Arab
sheikh at the age of twelve; when her own daughter Nena comes of age and Maha
cannot bring in the money she once did, she faces a terrible decision as the
agents of the sheikh come calling once more.
The New York Times - William Grimes
Ms. Brown, author of Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia, has
a sociologist's eye and a novelist's appreciation of her surroundings and the
human drama that plays out before her. She spends nearly as much time
describing the street foods of Lahore and the excitement of religious
festivals as she does analyzing the grim economics of the sex trade. Her main
character, Maha, a prostitute on the downward side of her career, comes alive
in all three dimensions, fully realized in the circumscribed world that has
defined life for her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her.
Prostitution, in Heera Mandi, is a family profession.
The Washington Post - Lily Burana
Brown's sensual acuity -- detailing the smell and texture of spiced gravy, the
intricate embroidery on a dress, the gritty dankness of the alleyways -- make
this a fascinating ethnography with Bollywood flair, even at its darkest
moments. At times, the author trips over herself -- she knows she's supposed
to be an impartial observer, but the hardships weigh her down. Her
vulnerability adds to her authority, however. In circumstances as grim as
these, a dispassionate tour guide is not to be trusted.
Library Journal - Lisa Klopfer
The book is painful, verging on the
voyeuristic, and unedifying. Libraries with an audience interested in women's
roles or prostitution in Lahore should select instead Jasmin Mirza's Between
Chaddor and Market and Fouzia Saeed's Taboo!: The Hidden Culture of a Red
Starred Review. Riveting and important. Even readers
who don't think they're interested in Pakistani prostitution will find
Booklist - Alan Moores
Starred Review. Brown is unsparing in relating the casual violence Maha
and her children inflict on one another, and that befalls them from their
circumstances, but she also can't help but be invested in their futures. Readers
of this excellent account will feel the same way.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by sahar deeply moving Excellent work. Great observations without any prejudice. I had tears in my eyes. Must read
Rated of 5
by Kamii enthralling! I deeply recommend this book. Brown is a sharp observer of details, and blends the complexity of past and current social issues with an own sense of humour, and unsentimental yet moving depicting of different lives she comes across over time. Her... Read More
Rated of 5
by john agree! Sam! I agree with you! I am so hooked! amazing work Brown!!
Rated of 5
by sam wow! What a book! Hats off a thousand times to Ms brown for publishing such a fantastic book! I read the first page and was hooked until I had finished. everyone should read this book, truly soul shaking!!
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