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Women who misbehave by Sayantani Dasgupta: book review

Unsettling, dark, tales of women

As a woman, the first task is to follow the things-not-to-do list.

Don’t talk loudly, don’t eat too much, don’t have your opinion, don’t talk to men and the list goes on and on. Then comes the list of what’s expected from us. Be a good girl, learn to cook, learn to keep quiet, keep your eyes low…. And if by any chance you violate it, all hell will break loose and you will be ostracized. Such is the society, where it’s a woman’s fault if a man rapes you, or a husband justifies killing his wife because of their “audacity” to do a job rather than taking care of babies and home. Women who don’t obey their fathers are bad, women with viewpoints are the devil's weapons.

How many of you remember the movie “main hoon na” where Amrita Rao wasn’t feminine or undeserving of love until she wore salwar kameez! Or the fact that a movie won’t be a MOVIE unless there’s a sexual provocation dance number! The systematic feeding of the notion where women ARE second-class citizens is shamefully very strong even to date. Or let’s rephrase it if you don’t identify yourself as a man then you don’t matter. What we often forget is how powerful the media is in pushing certain kinds of narrative, no wonder that there are men who think “na mein hi haan hai”, that stalking is love.

The stories by Sayantani Dasgupta are powerful enough to make one feel surprised, get angry, confused, and above all force one to think. If only wearing simple saari means the woman doesn’t hold enough cruelty within herself to murder her entire family for the sake of love, or otherwise a charming writer who falls in love and marries an accountant won’t be able to pen down her thoughts without getting emotionally bruised. My heart goes to Binu who disobeyed all the rules and kept on reading and standing on her ground without thinking about the repercussions. Swift yet the very delicate manner of world-building and character developing in such a short space the author amazed me. These women are being pushed and cornered by society, friends, and family that once in a while they erupt in a surprising way as if a volcano got awakened after a hundred years of sleep. These women are unconventional, desperate and with an ambition to prove their worth.

It's not about being well behaved or not, it's more about the tiny injustices done every moment against a gender layered under the “we want nothing but your good” notion. The writing style is so beautiful, so seamless that it achieved near perfection. I can imagine myself reading this book, picking up stories randomly, making annotations on a lazy weekend afternoon.


Women Who Misbehave, much like the women within its pages, contains multitudes and contradictions-it is imaginative and real, unsettling and heartening, funny and poignant, dark and brimming with light.

At a party to celebrate her friend’s wedding anniversary, a young woman spills a dangerous secret. A group of girls mourns the loss of their strange, mysterious neighbor. A dutiful daughter seeks to impress her father even as she escapes his reach. A wife weighs the odds of staying in her marriage when both her reality and the alternative are equally frightening. An aunt comes to terms with an impulsive mistake committed decades ago. In this wildly original and hauntingly subversive collection of short stories, Sayantani Dasgupta brings to life unforgettable women and their quest for agency. They are violent and nurturing, sacred and profane. They are friends, lovers, wives, sisters, and mothers. Unapologetic and real, they embrace the entire range of the human experience, from the sweetest of loves and sacrifices to the most horrific of crimes.

Women who misbehave by Sayantani Dasgupta is published by Penguin Vikings and to order your copy buy here.


An alumna of St. Stephen’s College and JNU, Sayantani Dasgupta received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is the author of Women Who Misbehave (Penguin Random House); Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, & the In-Between—a Finalist for the Foreword Indies Awards for Creative Nonfiction—and the chapbook The House of Nails: Memories of a New Delhi Childhood. Her writing has appeared in over 50 literary journals and magazines, including, The Hindu, The Rumpus, Scroll, Economic & Political Weekly, IIC Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, and others. She has been awarded a Centrum Foundation Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. Besides the US, she has taught creative writing in India, Italy, and Mexico. Sayantani is also the winner of Season 3 of Write India, adjudged by the novelist Kavita Kane, and organized by the books division of The Times of India.

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