Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
After a wonderful, inspiring vacation in Africa, anthropology student Elizabeth Enslin decided she wanted to do her field work research there, romantically picturing herself living among and studying women involved in revolutionary or liberation movements, but then she married a man from the Himalayan nation of Nepal and not only did her focus have to shift, after living with her husband’s extended family of Brahmin caste farmers in a compound without electricity or indoor plumbing she discovered that being embedded in another culture is nothing like a holiday visit. Especially when you’re pregnant, a natural introvert, and can’t quite figure out how the unwieldy world you’re now part of can be filtered into a doctoral thesis project.
This is at least a three-fold book, part personal memoir of early married life, part story of an aspiring anthropologist trying to find her way in a new culture, and part intimately researched study of Nepal during a time of political turmoil, especially looking at the evolving and for me sometimes surprising roles of women, caste, and class. As a westerner and a non-Brahmin, Enslin feels her outsider status acutely. It confers a prestige that as an anti-imperialist academic she doesn’t want to exploit, but it also means that even in her husband’s fairly liberal family she’s not considered pure enough to help prepare their food--when she sees a pot boiling over on the stove she has to shout and point to it, but not touch it and thereby pollute the meal. Though not a lighthearted lark, While the Gods Were Sleeping utterly fascinated me.
I read an advanced review ebook copy of this book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions are mine.