Bangladesh is a country that is far too often overlooked in contemporary literature. Even as a person who actively seeks out books by non-Western authors and books sset in non-Western countries I have struggled to find books that spotlight Bangladesh and its astonishing culture. Secrets in the Wind by Rumpki Choudhury does just that, shedding a spotlight on Bengali culture and weaves a story that highlights the realities of womanhood in Bangladesh. In the book Choudhury welcomes us into the landscape and cities of Bangladesh which serve as the backdrop for a story that tackles the subject of forced child marriages and violent misogyny that sadly frequently take place across Bangladesh and elsewhere across South Asia. Through the story we learn about the circumstances that ensnare women into abusive relationships where they experience little agency to overcome their abuse.
Choudhury tells her story through the lens of Bangladeshi-American teen, Asha, who dictates the voice of the novel. Asha’s voice is pronounced in the writing and feels grounded in the experiences of teen girlhood that many of us will be able to relate to. It is for this reason I think this book would be an excellent read for a younger demographic who will be able to position themselves in Asha’s shoes firmly, relating to her thoughts and feelings as she experiences the abuse of her cousin, Kushi. Throughout the novel Choudhury takes care to devote time to the realities of Bangladesh while preserving the sensibilities of her protagonist, encouraging us all to embrace the role of a whistleblower when we experience the injustice of toxic misogyny.
Secrets in the Wind has the ability to provoke necessary conversations about the commodification and subjugation of women in conservative countries where agency exists but is restricted. The story effectively explores the complicated balancing act of seeking one’s own path while navigating the obstacles of societies that place rigid expectations upon women and their choices. Asha serves as a lighthouse for the story to present alternative paths toward brighter futures and as the protagonist of the novel acts in many ways as an example of allyship to the women around us who are in the midst of the aforementioned balancing act.
Overarchingly, Choudhury tackles one of the most complex and culturally significant topics in South Asia with fearlessness and a determination to amplify the realities of womanhood in Bangladesh. She does so with a confidence that peppers the entire book, continuing to embrace the pride she has in her Bangladeshi heritage while showing us an unblinking look at the harshness that permeates the country and how many women there live their lives. Such a subject is deeply important for a feminist dialogue that seeks to be a global discourse about uplifting all women of all backgrounds.