WHILE THE GODS WERE SLEEPING
A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal
By: Elizabeth Enslin
Published: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Seal Press
Elizabeth Enslin begins her memoir with the story of her son’s birth in a small village in Nepal in 1987. After a long labor that wasn’t progressing, she takes off through the rural roads of Nepal to the nearest hospital, which was her last choice in her options for giving birth. As Enslin reflects on this day, she sees her 6 years in Nepal in a whole new light and takes the readers through her arrival and years in Nepal. She eventually returns to the states, even spending a brief time in Iowa City while her husband studied at the University of Iowa. This memoir explores her journey as an anthropologist, as a wife of a Nepali, and as a mother.
Elizabeth Enslin and her husband Pramod travel to his home country Nepal as anthropologists. She meets his family for the first time and moves in with his parents and their extended family. She learns the cultural restrictions and norms for women and daughter-in-laws, and adjusts to the primitive lifestyle. Her doctoral study takes on a new focus and through her life in Nepal we learn much about the challenges for women in Nepal, the strong family ties and love of culture, and their resilience for a better future.
Enslin’s memoir is quite fascinating, yet parts of it read like a research paper. Some sections were more readable than others. I preferred the parts of the book where she shared snippets of emotion and real life in Nepal. I ended up skimming sections that were heavy in political and anthropological notes where she ventured deep into the research and less into the stories. I also became frustrated with the political piece, especially when much of it wasn’t resolved. The constant battle between men and women, between cultural and religious expectations and the different castes were constant road blocks in making any progress. I was especially interested in the tales of pregnancy and delivery, women’s issues, the realities of domestic violence, the harsh living conditions, and the various cultural restrictions for women in Nepal. Hearing real concerns, stories, and descriptions of daily life remind me to appreciate the freedoms and choices we have here in America.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t some sort of “update” at the end of the book related to the many members of their family. This book was written about her life in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I am curious to know how some of the family fared, especially Aama, the author’s mother-in-law. What has happened to the author and her family now that they are living in the US? What has happened to Pramod’s family and the culture for women in Nepal now that it is 2014. The only information we have on Enslin is that she is living in a strawbale house in Oregon. A brief epilogue at the end of the book would have given the reader a update on the people of Nepal twenty years later. Maybe this is something that could be offered on the author’s website.
If you find learning about other cultures, women’s studies, and travel interesting, WHILE THE GODS WERE SLEEPING might be a book for you. A portion of the processed from this book will be donated to the Rural Health Education Service Trust (RHEST) for projects dedicated to improving women’s reproductive health in rural Nepal.
|Elizabeth Enslin – source|
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