Book talk: Girls Burn Brighter, a powerful story about hardship

Arts & Culture Book Review

Jess Ward, Staff Writer

I would like to add a trigger warning for this book, as well as the rest of this article, for mentions of rape and assault.

In her first ever novel, Shobha Rao has accomplished something beautiful; she gives the reader a glimpse into the unwavering and lifelong bond between two women who will do anything to stay together. Girls Burn Brighter attests to the unique hardships faced by women, specifically in the context of arranged marriage.

Poornima and Savitha live in Indravalli, a remote village in India, and work in the weaving caste making saris. Savitha works for Poornima’s father, and the two become fast friends. Everything changes when Poornima’s father rapes Savitha, and she is forced to flee to escape a forced marriage to him. Poornima is then married off to a wealthy college-educated man, whose family treats her as a slave and detests the darkness of her skin. For the rest of the book, the story alternated between Savitha and Poornima’s perspective, as they both chase after their freedom and, ultimately, each other.

Girls Burn Brighter, while at times heavy in its symbolism, finds its strength in its protagonists. As the reader, you wait with baited breath to see how Savitha and Poornima will reconnect. The story takes you all the way from Indravalli to Seattle, and explores colorism, misogyny, tradition and human trafficking. Poornima and Savitha have their girlhoods and their innocence stolen from them, but they never let go of their hope. Rao has set a high standard for herself, and I have high hopes for whatever she publishes next.

If you have any books you want to see reviewed, suggestions can be sent to [email protected] For those who want to read along, I will be reviewing The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang.

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