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The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Ancient Pleasure District Hardcover – July 5, 2005
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“A fascinating ethnography with Bollywood flair, even at its darkest moments.” (Washington Post)
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Top Customer Reviews
It seems at one moment we are heartbroken and devastated by the reality of these women's lives, and at another intrigued and in awe of their ability to have some happiness, however small.
Brown's flair for description, and wondrous sense of humour brings this Walled City and its activities to life, creating a invigorating and wonderful read.
It is amazing that one human-being can find the courage, bravery and determination needed to record Heera Mandi, a world un-known to western culture, and its inhabitants. This book should be read for its sheer importance, not only for Brown's exquisite novelist's touch.
Most of the Pakistanis will not talk about the Heera Mandi. In one of the many complex and idiosyncratic treatments towards sex, the Pakistani society will waste no time in classifying them as lowest of the lows, yet will also use them to help their essentially messed up sexual lives. This book spares nothing in portraying the almost unbelievable living conditions that the "tawaifs" are facing on a daily basis. You will also get to see the poor as they struggle to live on a day to day basis. The treatment of city sweepers, who are generally relegated to be treated as almost untouchables, is an eye-opener. This is not Rohington Mistry's account of a low class Sub-Continent fiction; this is very real, and it happens every day in the Red Light District of Lahore.
I love this book. Louise Brown lived in wretched conditions to observe the life of Maha, a woman in her 30s who has retired in an industry where rookies are as young as 10 years old. Occasionally, you get to see the dilemma that Ms. Brown passes through; when a young 14 year old is shipped to Gulf to be a mistress for an old Arab, who has a thing of young virgins, the author wonders whether she should actively get involved in stopping that illegal and dangerous trade from taking place. Another interesting part is the social hierarchy that exists within the Heera Mandi prostitutes, where one is "Shareef" or respectful because she commands 10,000 Rupees per night, and not 200.
Above all, this book is an ode to the human spirit. Ms.Read more ›
The profession of "dancing girls" (prostitution) is passed down through the generations. There seems no way out of this ongoing trap. When the women become middle-aged and can no longer attract customers, they see no way to generate income but to sell their daughters' bodies to the highest bidders. Maha sold her most attractive daughter's virginity to an old Arab man for $8,400.
As I got deeper into the book, I was glad to discover it wasn't just about prostitution. The author kept a daily diary of everything she experienced among these people, so there's a lot about food, religion, superstition, poverty, drugs, and the caste system that officially does not exist in a Muslim society but is strictly observed nonetheless. All in all a very interesting cultural and sociological eye-opener.
I had the strong feeling that this would have made a wonderful magazine piece for, say, The New Yorker. Something with heft and something that would have allowed for 5,000 or even 10,000 words. As a book, however, one begins to feel the lure of skimming as a way through because it all starts to sound the same. We are not engaged enough in the lives of the women profiled; there isn't enough real detail about them, nor is there any sense of genuine dialogue. Descriptions of urine-filled streets, rats in the house, cough syrup overdoses, etc., are not engaging enough over 250+ pages to keep at least this reader emotionally connected and committed.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If someone had told me that I would really enjoy reading about prostitutes in Pakistan I would not have believed it--but I did. Read morePublished 15 hours ago by lightly
The first quarter of the book was quite repetitive. The rest was interesting but sometimes a little choppy, jumping from one subject to another and obviously writing out... Read morePublished 2 days ago by ann
A very difficult but illuminating read about the misery, filth, violence, exploitation and hypocrisy arising from a rigidly Islamic society, where men routinely work themselves... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Hypatia
I was very excited to start reading this book. However became disenchanted quickly. It seemed disjointed and not a smooth read. Very depressing. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Fountain hills AZ
I came to the U.S. as a toddler. My family is from Lahore. This is a story I would never have known. Read morePublished 2 months ago by SAIMA RITCHIE
This is a fascinating book and an incredible undertaking to live among the dancing women of Lahore. I took one star off because of the too much use of local language words without... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Lotusprins
The book is written with preconceived notions that Pakistan has one culture, and that is Punjabi culture. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jay Khan
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written, with very interesting subjects. I also really liked the writer, who plays a big part in this book as she lives with and... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Kathleen Hamilton