Review by: KEN KORCZAK
The news cycle today is brutal: Shocking reports of monstrous beheadings, people burned alive in cages, entire African villages murdered by militarized thugs.
Well, prepare to have a tad more of your hope for humanity wrung out (if you have any left). This compelling Kindle Single, 13 MEN, written by SONIA FALEIRO, is a riveting, unflinching piece of long-form journalism looking at the dark and hope-sapping phenomena of gang rape in India.
Faleiro takes apart the complex case of a charming, hardworking, but perhaps headstrong young woman recently returned to live in her remote village in West Bengal, India. She dared to flout centuries old local tribal customs – but paid for it with an even greater corruption of those same traditional moral codes.
The topic is timely, to be sure, noting the recent controversial decision by the government of India to ban a BBC documentary about the gang rape of a New Delhi woman. Debate about this censorship is raging across the Internet and world media.
Gang rapes by roving packs of men has long been a huge problem in India, but the country seems determined to bring this deeply taboo subject out of the darkness into the light of greater public consciousness – a painful process as India’s multifaceted, complex and ancient culture lurches into modern times.
Faleiro’s 13 Men should serve as a significant contribution to the discussion. With the withering gaze of a journalist determined to get all the facts and capture the complexity of a single case, the author demonstrates how enormously difficult and vexing finding truth and justice can be.
What’s involved is not just a clash of cultures, but economic injustice, greedy capitalists, corrupt and/or inept public officials, competing interpretations of laws and customs, illiteracy, alcohol abuse and just the plain-old lack of moral character by certain drifting, good-for-nothing men – and perhaps the women who enable them.
Navigating all this territory and churning it back out into a piece of writing that is clear and concise is no easy task, and I give Fareiro enormous credit for bringing clarity to an almost impossibly muddy issue.
If you have the stomach to confront more of the tragedy, cruelty and heartache of our troubled world, pick up a copy of 13 Men – it’s a marvelous piece of journalism on a timely subject that brings much-needed light to a deeply dark issue.
Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS
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