For this reflection, I don’t really have a prompt. I wanted to discuss a book I’ve read (twice) over the summer, which is significant because, if you knew me, you would know I never read a book again if it isn’t THAT good. I will try my best to not put out too many spoilers but forgive me if I do!
The book is called A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss, and it is one of the best books I have ever read. Most of my reading for fun involves mystery, a strong female lead or stories of immigrants like me. This book encompasses all three. It introduces the reader to Afia, a devout, modest Pashtun girl with big dreams, living at Smith College. Her brother, a brilliant squash player attending a university nearby Smith, who brought her to amreeka, has taken on the responsibility to “watch” her and protect her namus. The book focuses on culture clashes, honor and its different roles within two families from the opposite ends of the globe.
As suggested by the title, honor is arguably the most important theme in this novel. Through this post, I wanted to compare and contrast what honor means in a typical american family versus that of Afia’s, which is not uncommon in South Asia. **Warning: Spoilers ahead** When Afia “messed up,” her stepbrother felt that she had stained the family’s namus and pressured her brother into killing her. He believed only her blood could restore her family’s honor. To him, the unmarried girl was the kiln that held the family’s respect. Her mistake would first be blamed on her mother, who did not raise her properly. Next, the father would be blamed for giving her the freedom that put her in the position to make her mistake. Then her brothers would be blamed for not protecting her and would be frowned upon at their workplaces. Her younger sisters would not receive any marriage proposals. If the mistake is severe enough, only disowning her or her “accidental” death would earn the family’s honor back. I can say from firsthand experience, that this is still true in many families from that part of the world. Call it tradition, but I personally like to call it sexism.
This is unlike the honor seen in the American family in the story. Afia’s brother’s coach has eyes that burn through you and words that leave you with chills. She is the athletic director at Enright University, and only a dream in the eyes of the people of Afia’s village. A woman with so much power is near impossible to make in Afia and her brother’s world, which is the reason they keep her hidden from their family, even though she is, indirectly, the reason both of them are in the US. When she decides to shelter Afia from fear of what her brother might do to her after her “mistake,” she sneaks behind her husband’s back to do so. She gets so involved in their lives and even defends Afia in court against her husband’s wishes. This shakes up the trust and honor in their marriage. This is a completely different definition of honor seen in the novel, one that makes more sense to me than the one aforementioned.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book to everyone seeking a better understanding of culture clashes and, not to generalize, but perhaps the lives that international students juggle.