Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence – Rehana Shamsi

lifefactsDay six and post six of poetry week, thanks for all the likes and comments so far and please bear with me as I will be around to view your blogs just as soon as I complete my seventh and final post.

Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence is the result of Rehana Shamsi’s observations, experiences, and relationship to her former society. Many of the poems bring to the forefront the emotional and psychological trauma caused by men’s traditional dominance over women in majority of South Asian households. Women’s constant struggle to overcome suppression is a major theme covered in this collection of poetry. In addition, Shamsi showcases her perspective on life in general.

Through her captivating and incisive style, she explores joys and sorrows, challenges and choices, and ignorance and intelligence.

After reading Nadeem Alsam’s excellent novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, I didn’t expect to come across something as moving, which confronted the same issues so soon.  Right from the first poem, the reader will find a strong voice that tackles one of the most important issues facing society today, the repression of women and their lack of education.

Shamsi’s experiences are a strong indictment of these failures in society and her remembrances are as difficult to read as it is, not to be angry at the number of girls still subjected to arranged marriages and the horrors that can stem from such ‘deals’.  These social issues seem to almost taken for the norm these days or at least less mentioned by the media for fear of upsetting the hegemony of men that still think this is still acceptable.

The book then takes a turn towards the positive.  After emigrating from the suppressive Pakistan to America, thoughts of a freer life are expressed, one where Shamsi can bring forth her unrestrained reflections on her journey through life.  Structured into parts titled: Awareness after Repression, Gender Disparity, Resurrection, Health, Migration, Family, Facts of Life, Old Age, Bereavement, Nine – Eleven, and Curiosity and Others, each of which will hold a strong resonance for her readers.

The Partition of India and post 9/11 sensibilities offer intriguing glimpses into the world and both bring context to what it means to have a deep-seated identity and also to be misunderstood by so many.  Such pieces are juxtaposed with intimate explorations of family and bereavement, giving the book a complete feel of emotional depth and one that encompasses hope when there is so much despair in the world.

There is lots of love infused into so many of these poems, as well as an appreciation of her liberal family when growing up to the backdrop of affected lives, that rightly outrages the author.   Perhaps the most important lesson of this book is that love and understanding is needed but also the strength to stand up against things that are not right and should not be tolerated.  Every human should have rights and by looking the other ways we do ourselves an injustice and to others an unforgivable act of ignorance.

Thanks to Mariparna, whose review helped me source a review copy.





29 Replies to “Facts of Life: Reflections on Ignorance and Intelligence – Rehana Shamsi”

  1. Ste J, I have to tell you, as soon as I saw this title, the first—and totally inescapable—thing that came to mind was our U.S. election. It shows what the unfortunate power ignorance can have. So many of us here are depressed, distraught and in total disbelief.

    P.S. There’s nothing new on my blog so you can skip this round! lol


    1. Every so often I do do a topical post or two but I think in the wake of the totally exhausting and lets face it, mind numbing coverage it is good to get into something else. I certainly enjoyed getting my teeth into these poems and being reminded of the other things both good and bad in the world, that don’t include Hilary or the other one whose name I forget.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I WISH I could forget Trump’s name, but we’re stuck now, hearing it and seeing these ignoramus’s destroy our country for the next four years 😦

        Don’t waste your time writing about ANY of it! This is MUCH more welcome and needed 😀


    1. See how my timing is working with Christmas once again being hyped way too early. Whereas a book on such subjects can be gruelling if done wrong, these short poems capture the essence of the message and deliver it with force.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It crept up on me without me really realising, which probably means my short-sightedness is not confined to my eyes hehe. It was good to get a diverse mix of current poets, maybe I will go into the past on an adventure one of these days.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such a shocking world for a westerner to get an insight into but I am glad I read it, it was challenging but wholly worthwhile taking the time to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharing books and blogs always makes me happy, there is so much good stuff out there to read. The least I can do is make everybody suffer the sense of not having enough time to read it, as I do. Haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a very good book of poetry. You have a real talent for unearthing talents which, though they probably aren’t actually buried in any real sense, are amongst the millions of books that get published every year, and you most times make a good case for them.


    1. I was approached to review this one after commenting on Maniparna’s site so I can’t take any credit for finding it. It does make me wonder how much good stuff gets lost in amongst all the other books of lesser quality. The problem is for the price of books, the risk against established authors is very against the self published author.


  3. I’m so happy that you read and reviewed Rehana Ma’am’s book! It was a great read for me, the poems indicate her insight towards life in different stages. I was deeply moved by her words. Thanks for your thoughts on the book and linking the post with mine… 🙂


    1. Credit where it is due my friend, had your excellent review not grabbed me I would not have been sent a review copy myself. It is a wonderfully emotive chronicle if a life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Although this does seem to ring of our distressing election season, I will definitely be adding this to my list. This one seems to speak to my soul.


  5. Steve,

    First of all, thank you for reviewing my collection of poems ‘Facts of Life.’ Your words mean a lot to me. I intended to highlight some of the issues and predicaments that a lot of women from the subcontinent face on a daily basis and I am glad that I was able to bring this to the forefront through my poetry.

    I am also overwhelmed by all the positive comments here. You have an excellent blog following.

    All the best,

    Rehana Shamsi


    1. Thank you for the opportunity, I am glad I could capture the ideas and issues and also for reminding me that I need to upload my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads. The readers here are always supportive and love their literature, sharing the books I read and discussing them is one of the joys of life.


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