BOOK REVIEW: The Ruby Iyer Diaries by Laxmi Hariharan
When women feel like they're fighting the good fight or rebelling against societal norms, it's rare that they can accurately describe when the anger ignited in them. Mostly, the rage just always has been there. As we mature as humans, females learn and digest the experiences around them, the images, the way people talk... even their own parents' perspectives that leads to this inequality of genders. You fight against yourself eventually, because misogyny becomes an internalized response despite your best efforts. You don't believe the lie but you are hurt, confused, abandoned and alone even within your family unit many times in the belief that girls are not less, or meant to be groomed for the marriage mart. In The Ruby Iyer Diaries, all of these feelings find voice, words to describe the change that overcomes us when we realize we're being shoved into a box and it is unfair. And you do not have to be a female to understand the feeling of helplessness and betrayal by all mankind.
My childhood sucked on one-hand for many reasons, and not for other reasons. My biggest complaint about my parents who obviously loved and hoped for me to succeed was that while I was growing up they couldn't get past their obnoxiously Victorian beliefs that girls were meant to be weak, gentle, kind, made of sugar and overall be the sweetest persons on the planet who could tame the worst of the world while married to men who would expect them to maintain a gorgeous, immaculate home, have and raise babies and all the while look like she stepped off a fashion magazine. Now I don't even think Mary Poppins would condone this perspective and she was practically perfect in every way. So when reading Ruby Iyer's defiance throughout this book, I related on so many levels. My home very much mimics hers even though I come from a poor American southern family. My dad was the comedic relief who would laugh off most of my ridiculous efforts in avoiding the same fate as my mother who tried to mold me into a refined lady. Needless to say my mother and I gave each other hell! Thankfully as we have aged, our differences while still wildly cataclysmic for us, we have learned to tone it down when speaking to each other. And despite her beliefs growing up, my mother has begrudgingly entered the era of free-thinking women. Or she has seen the error of her ways in believing a woman should only live to prepare for marriage at least. After two daughters divorced, had children as single mothers and basically was crapped on by the legal system, their exes and the system that was supposed to help them out, I believe she got a first hand look at how grooming wives is just not a valid life choice anymore when you have daughters.
Time changes females more than men, I think, and it makes us more subversive. While we try our hardest to not become what we're expected to become -- the weaker sex (a myth dammit), enclosed and contained and polite despite what the world does around us -- our battle only becomes harder the older we get. Most of us do at least fight against "the norm" nowadays. And Ruby Iyer captures that fight from childhood, adolescent and into adulthood. There's a battle waging between our instinctual strength of character and the way the world pits us against ourselves. Images of sexy perfection and objectified beauty influencing our perspectives, warping our right to be happy with ourselves just the way we are and to see ourselves unique and revel in it.
QUOTE ME: There's a harshness to this narration that makes a lot of the introspection ring true even as it is shocking. As women we are overlooked, under-appreciated, thought less intelligent, less strong, less instinctual... we are expected to be self-aware in a way that turns us on ourselves. It's a harrowing experience and that's the amazing story Ruby Iyer tells. She fights it... and faces those fears with a need to be herself.