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Reading Books in a Southern State of Mind
Review | Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapakse
January 24, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
It’s hard for me to review poetry. Prose makes it easy because grammar, flow, characters, and plots come into play. Poetry, though, can’t be dissected quite the same way. This book, while technically fewer pages than a lot of the ones I’ve reviewed, took significantly longer to read because it pulled me through so many experiences. To say that I enjoyed it wouldn’t be quite accurate; each poem in this book made me thoroughly feel something, but most often those feelings were desperate, angry, and painful. They shed light on lives and experiences I will probably never have a chance to understand through my life path. They forced me to see things I would rather ignore and called out my typical American behavior of overlooking the hardships women face outside of this country.
There were times while reading this that I felt overwhelmingly guilty for having been born into a life that some people will never know. I felt guilty for taking for granted the freedom that we have and for failing to use my voice when I have so much more opportunity to do so than women in more countries and societies than I can count ever will. There were times when I felt embarrassed for the way that our society has taught people to behave. Not all of these poems were particularly enjoyable in their experience, but every one of them sparked thought and brought up very real questions that we should all be considering. That is the true value in this work. It is not a light read. It is not something you’d carry with you to the beach or enjoy over a night, relaxing vacation. There’s nothing relaxing about this. This is a book that sparks movement, that demands action. If you are prepared to be dragged into a reality that most of us would prefer to ignore, this is a great way to do it. Let these words show you the things you haven’t learned yet. Let them make you angry. Let them draw you out and call you to action. Well done, Shirani. This is a powerful collection, and I hope it calls forth the action and attention it deserves.