The Grand Daughter Project
The Grand Daughter Project by Shaheen Chishti is about three women from different parts of the world who had suffered in the hands of the society. These women have gone through gender inequality, war-time trauma and racial oppression. These three women join hands to start a project called, “The Grand Daughter Project”, where they write letters to their grand-daughters about their suffering and an insight into their lives, in hopes that these letters would provide them a sense of strength, an explanation, and a right mind.
The complex past of these women are revealed and this strange connection between them deepens.
First and foremost, the cover is amazing. I just love how the author has a page dedicated to the list of characters in the book. It gives an organized vibe right from the start, which is just what a reader loves.
This book touches on the topics mentioned above. I must give a fair trigger warning – strong language, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assaults.
The main three characters are Kamla, a woman from Calcutta; Helga, a woman from Austria and Lynette, a woman from Jamaica.
To summarize in brief, Kamla suffered in the Bengal Famine in 1943. She also suffered more than just the famine. She saw her sisters die in front of her out of starvation during the famine. Her own father murdered her mother in a drunken state.
Kamla was the one who wanted to start the grand-daughter project.
I started this book with no expectations and since Kamla’s story is the first out of the three, I was heartbroken already. Her story had elements where it pinched my heart.
Now, this story made me cry. I had to shut close the book too many times as I couldn’t take it anymore. The entire war-time suffering and the brutal torture that the people had gone through this time period was just so heart-breaking.
Helga suffered a lot in the hands of these SS officers. The trauma she would have had is just so sad. Even when she thought she had made it out of the refugee camp, she was still advanced by one of the officers.
Helga had everything and then she lost everything. It was so sad to see her happy family come crumbling to pieces. I rooted for Helga a lot.
The way Helga explains why she was unable to show love to her daughter – Levana – sounded completely reasonable to me.
Helga’s letters were however long and detailed. I felt she side-tracked a lot in her letters.
Lynette was a good girl gone bad. She was a good student, a faithful daughter until she got into the wrong crowd and started skipping school. As one thing always leads to another, next thing you know, she was deep into the mess.
Lynette, being a person of color who had come from Jamaica to United Kingdom, faced a lot of racial discrimination. She was beaten, called names and yet she had this fighting spirit in her. Racial discrimination is something that is still around at this modern age. So imagine the magnitude of the hatred against the people of color back in 1958.
Lynette was able to pick herself up and was able to turn her life around for the sake of her daughter, Alicia.
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Helga and Lynette crossed paths with Kamla at some point in their life and it was Kamla who brought the three together.
The men in the lives of these women were mostly bad people. They never respected their opinions, they belittled them, they never stood up for them.
It is amazing how the letters made a change in each of their granddaughter’s lives. Only one out of the three was close to their grandmother but after the letters, they all understood their importance as a woman; they knew what they want and proceeded to make the necessary changes in their lives.
It would have been exaggerating if the author had painted all men as bad people. And that is exactly what he didn’t do. He made sure that there were good men mentioned in the story – Like Louis who was like a mentor figure to Alicia, Lynette’s daughter or like Tanya’s boyfriend, Jerome.
Even though each story had a separate theme, it all had the same undertone of sadness and oppression to it – Women suffering all over the world.
This book made me feel a lot of emotions in the span of 262 pages. It made me shocked, sad, angry and then happy at how it all ended.
There were times when I was blown away by the emotions displayed by a character that made me think that this book was maybe written by a woman. I say so as a compliment since Shaheen has nailed the emotions a woman would have felt in such situations.
This book is a must read. I rate this book a 4 on 5.
You can get your copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.in/Granddaughter-Project-Shaheen-Chishti/dp/1608882381