[#DecolonizeBookshelves2022] “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders”


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Daniyal Mueenudin Published by: W. W. Norton & Company (2010, first published 2009) ISBN: 0393337200 (ISBN13: 9780393337204). Literary Awards: Pulitzer Prize Nominee for Fiction (2010), O. Henry Award for ‘A Spoiled Man’ (2010), Rosenthal Family Foundation Award (2010), The Story Prize (2009), The Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize Nominee (2010), Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in South Asia and Europe (2010), National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2009), DSC Prize Nominee for South Asian Literature for Longlist (2011). Book was given to me as a gift. Book photos taken by me.

While this is, by no means, the first book that I am reviewing / featuring as part of our #DecolonizeBookshelves2022 reading theme – this is the first book that I have read and reviewed from my target list of 25 books (for this year) from This Is The Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf In 50 Books (Amazon | Book Depository).

Daniyal Mueenudin’s novel has won multiple awards, including being a Pulitzer Prize Nominee for Fiction and a National Book Award Finalist. A former colleague in Singapore has also reviewed this novel here at GatheringBooks – she was actually the one who gifted me this book.

Since I know that I will not be able to fully capture my sentiments about the books I am reading from This Is The Canon while writing my review here on the blog, I decided to go old-school – and finally use this journal that was gifted to me by a Japanese illustrator friend a few years back:

My book log indicates that I started reading the book on 25 January and that I finished it 03 February. Immediately after finishing the book, I wrote down my thoughts. I have taken a photo of my entry and sharing it here:

I did not enjoy reading the novel – I found the male-centric gaze constant, uncomfortable, and patronizing. I have been asking myself whether I am being too hard on the author, as he may merely be depicting the realities of Pakistani culture – that is a valid point. However, there were hardly any effort to shift the gaze to get into the female characters’ truths; their voices were further silenced in this narrative, their motivations judged (quite harshly), and in most instances their endings quite horrific. I get that this may truly be what is happening in real life, I as a woman of color, can hardly deny that fact – and I am not blind to this. But when the author starts describing a freshly-bought, untouched newspaper as “crisp virginity” – I know that this is more than just a depiction, but an authorial decision to render the women doubly voiceless.

I have also been racking my brains as to why this novel could have won these many awards – until I realized that for the most part, award-giving bodies mostly consist of male judges, who may be oblivious to the fact that the writing smacks of the sexism and the many normalized microaggressions that women the world over had to perceive as matter-of-fact and inevitable. Thus, as I reflect on the title “In other rooms, other wonders” – I ask: “wonders for whom?”

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 17 out of target 100

February 17, 2022 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal