This piece was originally posted on June 24, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective, during which we will post a combination of new content and posts from the past. Enjoy!
On June 17, several women gathered together to discuss Indu Sundaresan’s The Twentieth Wife for the first ever TWM Sizzling Summer Book Club meeting. I was fortunate to be one of them, and I am not just saying this because I am affiliated with TWM. I was pleasantly surprised at the instant rapport my fellow book clubbers and I forged as we discussed women’s roles during the height of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent as we snacked on Italian sweets at Veniero's in New York City’s Lower East Side.
The historical novel is built around a real woman named Mehrunnissa (which means “Sun of Women”), her Persian family, and their lasting impact on the Mughal emperors Akbar and Jahangir. From the title of the book and from history, we all knew the main character would eventually become Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir. That fact didn’t take away from the enjoyment we all had from reading about Mehrunnissa’s journey, which Sundaresan created so vividly on the page. We discussed how women exerted their power and influence in the Mughal court, while still having to remain in the shadows as men publicly dominated the world. The discussion took an interesting turn when we discussed how women’s subjugation of one another in history is also alive and well today, which is an unfortunate and sobering reality we all have to deal with.
Even though I love books, I have never been a part of a book club before. I am glad I chose TWM’s as my first. While we definitely bonded over the book, I believe that the friendliness, openness and intelligence of my fellow book club members made it worthwhile. It is refreshing to meet people who love reading and self-discovery through the process. I also feel that my love for reading has been renewed because of the positive group interaction I experienced. I hope the other participants feel the same.
July’s theme is Women and Travel, so I am really looking forward to reading TWM’s book selection. Yes, I am a bibliophile, and proud of it!