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Meyebela: My Bengali Girlhood

Taslima Nasrin

Meyebela, or "girlhood," is a term coined by Nasrin ("Shame") because no term for a girl's childhood exists in Bengali. Nasrin, a Bangladeshi doctor-turned-writer, has been living in exile since 1994--ever since Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against her for her criticism of Islam's repression of women. In this powerful memoir of her Muslim childhood, Nasrin revisits her early years--from an auspicious birth on a Muslim holy day to the threshold of womanhood at 14--in a rural village during the years that East Pakistan fought for its independence to become Bangladesh. Nasrin's memories alternate between vivid tableaus of village life and scenes of violence and flight. These extremes are reflected in her philandering, domineering father and her powerless mother, a mother whose powerlessness drives her into Islamic fundamentalism. But Nasrin maintains her own voice throughout, recognizing even as a child the injustices of her world. This is an unflinching account of growing up female in a Muslim society.

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