Friday, February 18, 2011
Pran of Albania, by Elizabeth Miller
Pran is a young woman who lives with her parents and two younger twin brothers in Albania. The book describes her day-to-day life, and how the people in the small villages coped with the threat of Slavic invasion at their borders. Although the book speaks very frankly of life and death, blood feuds and wars, it's pretty tame in nature and has a happy ending. Also, *spoiler alert* no one identified in the story dies (although it is assumed that men died fighting to secure the borders).
One of the most interesting parts of the story for me was the discussion of gender roles. Whether true or not, the story claimed that a woman could take a man's role in society, including in councils and fighting, if she vowed to remain a virgin and not marry. She was required to cut her hair and the could then wear a man's clothing and rifle. It was fleshed out reasonably well, and I was really intrigued by it!
My only frustration with the book is in the ethnic words and names. Not a fault so much as the lack of a pronunciation guide. I don't like feeling as if I'm not saying things properly in my head, and a quick appendix or something at the end could easily have remedied this.
Overall an interesting and simple story.
Update 8/26/2013: apparently the gender-role-switching is true, and traditional in this culture. I came across this article today. http://www.thefrisky.com/2013-08-25/the-sworn-virgins-of-albania-live-as-celibate-gender-bending-lives/