Most helpful positive review
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting look at women around the world
on December 12, 2006
I wanted this book for years because it was right up my alley-- I'd loved both the "Material World" books and "Hungry Planet" and anything full of photos that relates to cultural anthropology. I bought it used from an Amazon seller, and definitely enjoyed it. However, I have to say, I ended up glad I didn't pay $23 for it (the Amazon list price for a new copy). It's smaller than the other culture/photo books I own, and less meaty in terms of content. A lot of the photo portraits have quotes superimposed on them that detract from the images, to me. For example, there is a portrait of a Japanese bride sitting in a small room, being viewed by the villagers through a window, with the quote, "A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space. -- Gloria Steinem." So unlike Annie Leibovitz's "Women," in which the photos are presented without comment, in this book many of the photos are literally stamped with someone else's views on the politics of gender. Coming from National Geographic, that surprised me. It also made me wonder how thoughtfully the quotes were chosen when they actually include the anonymous quote, "Chance made us sisters, hearts made us friends." That's the sort of thing you stamp on a magnet in Girl Scouts.
On the upside, though, there are many unique images in this book-- lots of photos that create insights into other cultures, which you would otherwise never see. To me, the book is worth owning just for those gorgeous and interesting photos. If you're looking for depth of content about "rituals of womanhood," however, you may want to look elsewhere. The text glosses over the subject, covering rituals that sound fascinating in two or three sentences, then moving on. Basically it's a long general essay. There's more depth to "Women in the Material World" by d'Aluisio, and less judgment in "Women" by Leibovitz. But if you're a fan of this type of book, this one makes for good general reading.