“Shame” Autobiography by Jasvinder Sanghera Essay (Book Review)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Sep 6th, 2020


Jasvinder has the Indian background although she was born and brought up in Britain. She authored the book “Shame” published by a London-based company called Hodder & Stoughton. At a tender age, Jasvinder witnessed the way her parents forced her sisters into a marriage. Robina would suffer abuse and violence from her husband. Trapped by the Indian culture into a marriage she objected, Jasvinder’s sister had to endure the suffering without sympathy from the parents.

She could not stand the situation anymore. The purpose of the book is to inform the world how the British Asians use cultural practices to commit crimes against women. The intended audiences are the British Asian women who are victims of gender discrimination and domestic violence. The book is a memoir-autobiography focusing on outdated cultural practices that attract the public attention. The book provides a vivid explanation of gender discrimination and oppression of the British Asian women.


The book “Shame” is an autobiography of an Indian girl who was born and raised in England. The story is based on a clash between the Indian and Western cultures. Jasvinder attended a school in England where she adopted much of the Western culture from children. In their family, male children are given first priority while their female counterparts are treated like secondary human beings. Jasvinder was not ready to comply with any of the cultural demands. She cut and made her hair against the family norms. She ran away with Jassey, a man whom her parents could not accept (Jasvinder, 2007).

The girls were married off to men they did not want. Jasvinder’s sisters suffered abuse and violence in their marriages. Robina who was one of her sisters used gasoline to set herself on fire because she was tired of suffering. Jasvinder says, “at the age of 14, I had that Robina had committed suicide” (p. 76). After her sister’s death, Jasvinder took a new path in life. She would help Indian women and other young women in Asia to escape the wrath of cultural practices.

Contents of the Book

Jasvinder was raised in the traditional household of Sikh in Derby. Her parents are immigrants from the Punjab. According to their culture, male children were given the first priority while the females were treated as the secondary members of the family. While in England where she grew up, Jasvinder learned foreign ideas and traits from her fellow schoolchildren. Having seen what happened to her sister, she was not going to allow her parents’ to impose the idea of an ideal daughter on her.

Her parents could not tolerate such misconducts because they did not want to raise an indecent daughter. They locked in her room for misbehaving (Gilbert et al., 2007). Later, they banished her from the family and sent her to live with her sister and the drunken husband. According to the family’s culture, such practices would bring dishonor to the family.

She did not like the idea of forced marriage. Her prospective husband was a strange man whom her parents had identified as the right husband for her (Kushal & Manickam, 2013). She objected their choice. As a result, the parents locked her in her room. Contrary to her parents, Jasvinder ran away with her boyfriend named Jassey (Jasvinder, 2007). Although Jassey was a brother to her best friend, Jasvinder’s parents could not accept him as their brother-in-law.

The Indian tradition demands that a girl’s parents must choose a husband for her. Although they were determined to run away, Jasvinder and Jassey had no place to stay and limited financial resources. Therefore, they had to depend on their wits to survive. For instance, they carved out a place in the market streets of the Bradford where they built a small business.

The Asian culture is so strong that it can destroy the relationship between a child and parents. Irrespective of the parent’s rejection, Jasvinder always wanted to go to her family. However, her parents refused to accept her. Instead, they considered her dead because she had caused shame in the family. The title of the book symbolizes the story of a girl who caused shame to her family. The book gives an account of a society that lives in shame but its people have refused to realize their shameful acts.

Although Jasvinder was constantly fighting for the love of her parents, they had totally withdrawn the love. Jasvinder says, “At the age of 16, I was brought a picture of a man who was to marry me” (p. 116). It is unusual for parents to reject their daughter because she has refused to accept their choice of husband (Ningrum, 2011). It appears shameful to put culture before the welfare of the family members.

Certain life experiences might change a person’s view and perception of the world. Jasvinder admits that he does not have a good relationship with men. Although she rejected the choice of her parents, Jasvinder admits that she was not good at choosing the right man. They tried to control her and often became violent. She faced a series of difficult challenges and disappointments because of the wrong choices of men she made. The suicide of her sister Robina became the turning point of Jasvinder’s life. Robina could not divorce her husband because she did not want to shame the family. On the other hand, her parents were not ready to accept a divorcee back in the family.

The situation forced Robina to kill herself because it was the only way to escape her husband’s torments (Hidaya & Kurnia, 2013). The incident acted as a catalyst that changed Jasvinder’s perception about men. She ran away from her marriage to start an independent life.


The author of the book uses a mixer of sad, defiant and rebellious tone to address issues of the culture and human rights violation. She sadly explains how her sister decided to set herself on fire in order to free herself from the forced marriage. It is sad that parents cannot allow their daughter to divorce their husbands even if they are mistreated (Kushal & Manickam, 2013). On the other hand, Jasvinder uses a defiant tone to describe how she escaped with her boyfriend.

Jasvinder defiantly decided to cut and make up her hair against the family traditions. Although she still loves her family, her parents rebelled and refused to accept her back (Jasvinder, 2007). Because she was not ready to accept the man chosen for her, the parents considered her dead.

To demonstrate her consciousness about the Indian culture, the author uses her personal accounts to notify the public about the atrocities and intimidation that Asian women undergo. It is unbelievable to think that practices such as forced marriage and domestic violence still happen to women in the twenty-first century Britain. The author seems to be a feminist because of her determination to portray the gender inequality among the British Asian society. The British laws protect both native and foreign people living in the country (Kushal & Manickam, 2013). Contrary to this, Jasvinder and her sisters suffer in the hands of their parents and husbands without the government intervention. The culture acts as a barrier between the victims and justice, which is the most interesting aspect of the story.

The most interesting aspect is how the author demonstrates the concepts of survival, hope, and determination. Its objective is to create a difference in a society, which is bound by outdated cultures. The concept of cultural defiance in this context is not about looking for sympathy or imposing punishment on the wrongdoers. It shows a rotten culture that still promotes crime and violation of human rights in the modern context of the UK.

The most dislikable aspect is that the story contradicts the positive image of the British Asian culture and life depicted to the public. It is shocking to note that the horrors that come with outdated cultural practices had not gone away (Gilbert et al., 2007). The Asian women have continued to be slaves of culture in the face of the world where human rights movement dominates.

Gender discrimination is a sensitive issue that the author addresses. Many people have succumbed to gender violence and discrimination because of their naivety. She suggests that courage and determination are the solutions to overcome gender oppression. All her sisters were forcefully married to men they did not want in the first place. Through courage, Jasvinder defied all odds of the Indian culture. Her interests come first before other things and she cannot allow anything to come between her and personal interests.

She recognized that many other Asian women were trapped by the culture (Wilson, 2007). Some of them rebelled against practices such as forced marriages and domestic violence. In addition, there were women of her mother’s age who suffered silently but were unable to reveal the mistreatment because they adored their culture. Through courage, she decided to address gender discrimination and domestic violence that dominated the British Asian population.

Jasvinder fails to justify why such brutality among women could continue in the modern world like the United Kingdom. The forced marriage among the British Asian women continued in the twenty-first century but no case has been taken to the court. One of the easiest and the most efficient options is to seek justice from the country’s legal system. Many women suffer in silence instead of engaging the authority. Jasvinder does not give the case of any British Asian woman who went to the court to seek justice (Kushal & Manickam, 2013).

The book satisfies my perception about the concept of gender discrimination and cultural decay. Many women suffer in silence because they respect their culture. The brutal incidences in the story have touched my emotions. They are similar to a personal experience in which I watched an Indian girl being deprived the right to education because she had reached the marriage age. In addition, her parents banished from their home because she refused a forced marriage.


The autobiography of Jasvinder gives her personal experience with the culture that oppresses women. The vivid explanations of the accounts that transpired as she escaped forced marriage are inspiring. By learning about her personal experience, we realize that being an agent of change is not an easy task. Through her experience, Jasvinder shows the world all horrors and oppressions that Asian women undergo. She is not ready to be intimated by outdated cultural practices.

She is determined to follow her desires and interests even if she becomes a shame to the family. She tells the world of a rotten society that practices oppressive culture. She gives the victims hope through encouragement and determination. The book inspires all people who have had similar experiences. Lastly, Jasvinder provides a solution by creating an organization to address the problems.


Gilbert, P., Bhundia, R., Mitra, R., Mcewan, K., Irons, C., & Sanghera, J. (2007). Cultural differences in shame-focused attitudes towards mental health problems in Asian and non-Asian student women. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 10(2), 127-141.

Hidaya, N., & Kurnia, F. (2013). Forced marriage of South Asian women in Jasvinder Sanghera’s daughters of shame. Journal of UNESA, 1(3), 243-412.

Jasvinder, S. (2007). Shame. London, England: Hodder & Stoughton.

Kushal, S., & Manickam, E. (2013). Dishonourable paradigms: A critical reading of provoked, shame and daughters of shame. South Asian Diaspora, 6(2), 225-238.

Ningrum, I. (2011). The representation of arranged marriage in the novel daughters of shame by Jasvinder Sanghera. Web.

Wilson, A. (2007). The forced marriage debate and the British state. SAGE Journals, 49(1), 25-38.

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