365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

Day 27: An Arranged Marriage by Nell Freudenberger

with 2 comments

I used to work with a guy who liked to read mail-order bride catalogues and it was ever so creepy. Oh let’s face it, he was one of the creepiest guys I ever worked with. And at some point I read this super creepy article in Harper’s.

This is a mail order bride story told from the bride’s point of view.

Amina had sworn Sharmila to secrecy on the subject of AsianEuro.com, and then they’d had a lot of fun, looking through the photos in the “male gallery.” Sharmila always chose the youngest and best-looking men; she would squeal and gasp when she came across one who was very old or very fat.

That’s about when my cultural appropriation radar activated, because really what does Freudenberger, a Harvard-educated American, know about being an Asian woman seeking a foreign marriage? I’m not qualified to comment on it either, but it made me deeply uncomfortable for a privileged American to try to unpick the other side of the mail-order bride story.

At the end of the day I found it a well-written story with fleshed out characters, and that made it all the worse. The story feels almost designed to give comfort to Westerners: to tell us that the whole thing isn’t that bad, starting right from the title.

Yeah, I think I need to be sick now. I encourage you to read the Harper’s article and not this story.

Written by Chance

October 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I had a trouble with both the article and the story. But focusing upon the story, I kept thinking of what I know of the Muslim household from the reading of Afi’s blog. This led me to doubt the main character. And, without the main character almost everything else fails. Unless you want to say to say this how an ending should connect to other aspects of the work.

    Pam McNew

    October 15, 2010 at 12:15 am

  2. Pam – definitely can see why you have problems with the article as well – it’s obviously writing to an angle.

    I couldn’t even begin to judge the main character and that’s part of the reason why I find the story so troubling.


    October 15, 2010 at 5:38 am

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