Veils, Halos & Shackles is reviewed in The Hindu by the insightful Maitreyi Karnoor. She says, “Thanks to its curatorial ingenuity, this book would be equally at home in a Women’s Studies class and on a bibliophile’s bookshelf.”
A brief excerpt:
The poems, with tones ranging from painful to cynical — to occasional dry wit — do not preach, reduce or generalise. They exhibit an eclectic range of experience and thought, each specified by religion, region, time and culturally precise natures of patriarchy, making a subliminal argument that while gender injustice is a global and historical phenomenon, its experience is local and specific.
The selection and presentation of poems is equally poetic. For instance, Nadia Anjuman, who had fought the Taliban regime to get an education, before allegedly being beaten to death by her husband for bringing ‘disgrace’ to his family by writing poetry, appears in the book in a poignant way. Since permission to publish her work was denied by the owners of rights to her work, her poem ‘The Silence’ is included as a blank space – a literary manoeuvre that reinforces the meaning beautifully.
In direct contrast to what a critical look at Malala as a phenomenon might suggest (that she is a construct of the West to facilitate its commercial and military intervention is an argument that cannot be ignored) are the arguments of Liana Joy Christensen in the concluding note after her poems. “It is easy to demonise particular cultures and religious groups for having some kind of monopoly on the oppression of women… the issues are a long-standing part of the problems facing humankind in all major cultures,” she writes.
The book, in containing these contradictions, provides the space for engaging with them critically. Whatever gender we perform, it is unlikely that any of us is spared the physical or psychological violence of gender injustice in our lives. So, each one of us can relate to the poems in our own way. The poems are graphic and painful: they grab by the throat, they resurrect demons, but they also redeem with the power of the word.
Read the full interview here: