Summary and Info
In the village of Deh Koh in southwestern Iran, a life path is set out for girls and boys from their earliest days. While little in this poor rural community comes easily to children of either sex, girls clearly bear the greater burden. Local lore has it that a boy can be recognized in his mother's womb as little as 20 days after conception, while a girl remains "a formless lump of meat" for two months. This skewed perspective continues to shape their fortunes in years to follow. Most mothers succumb to pressure to wean their infant daughters more than a year earlier than their sons--a calamity in a world where the breast offers succor and the major form of sustenance. Girls can be married off as soon as they mature--as early as 9 according to religious edict--though there are fewer child brides and child mothers as modernization tinkers with village traditions. Since 1992, the politics of overpopulation have made birth control a national priority, a sea change embraced by many married women worn down by childbearing. "Only husbands and old women want us to have many children," says a mother of eight, "men because they don't know what a trouble it is and old women because they have forgotten." Ethnographer Erika Friedl writes somewhat judgmentally on the hardscrabble lives led in Deh Koh, but also with insight, verve, and authority. While spotlighting the children, she illuminates the days of their mothers and fathers and opens the reader's biases for question, too. --Francesca Coltrera
More About the Author
For the mathematician, see Eric Friedlander.
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