Full disclosure: I was given a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
March is Women’s National History Month, but any time is a good time to honor women around the world from the past, present, and future. Anybody can celebrate their accomplishments and inspire others to do so. And this means everyone, including men. In fact, there are male allies. These are men who respect women and are willing to support them for their place at the table. There are male authors like Chris Bohjalian who are capable of depicting three-dimensional female characters.
This brings us to today’s subject Her She Lady: A Tribute to Womanhood by Shah Asad Rizvi. Rizvi wrote the 103-poem collection not only to celebrate the women in every stage of their lives, but also to inspire them to value themselves and to find their wings. In addition, he wanted the male readers to read the poetry and cherish the presence of women and to honor their existence. After reading the poetry collection, it’s clear that Rizvi has a certain way of looking at women, but he respects and cherishes them just the same, and the poetry is just as accessible as his previous work.
While reading this collection, I was reminded of three songs: “Golden Hour” by JVKE, “Nice for What” by Drake, and the most obvious “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones. All three of these tunes capture the moods presented by the poems in She Her Lady. “Golden Hour” communicates the awe and inspiring aspects of the poems as the JVKE and Rizvi are both taken in by the women around them. “Nice for What” portrays ladies as independent and goal-minded and reminds listeners that they don’t need to lower themselves to please the people around them. Not sacrificing who you are just to satisfy others is an idea that Rizvi stresses in different poems. Tom Jones in “She’s a Lady” tells everyone about his woman and how special she is because of her femininity and what she does for him. Rizvi also elevates the women in his poems in similar ways, but with less emphasis on him.
These poems have two main strengths. One of them is that they have a simple, elegant, and mostly non-rhyming language. Like Divan of Shah and The Book of Love, the poems are elevated for those who love poetry, yet obvious enough for those who are getting into the genre. The other pro to this collection is that Rizvi clearly cherishes women of all ages. The poems make it very clear that he respects them and expresses outrage of their mistreatment when possible. Considering that he was born in Pakistan, grew up in Japan, and currently lives in the United Arab Emirates – countries ranked on the lower end for gender equality according to World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap report, I appreciate that he’s willing to empower women as much as he can as well as to be angry about gender equality as much as they are. His best poems are often ones that acknowledge the struggles the ladies go through without being on a high horse. My favorite poems are “Inner Voice,” “Resolute,” “Mammoth,” “The Pedestal,” “Hegemony,” “Rights,” “Unconditional,” and “Amen.”
As for the cons, it displays the same one as his previous work in that he is espousing the same ideas but with different words in many of his poems. I’ll give a pass on this one since one of Rizvi’s objectives for this collection of poetry is to get men to appreciate women for who they are and what makes them special. Sometimes, people need to hear the same thing but in different ways in order to fully understand the whole idea. Also, some of the poems here are from Divan of Shah.
The main problems with this work are how he words his lines and that he has a specific idea on what women are. The poems use a language that can be found in makeup commercials. I know that this is not Rizvi’s intention, but there were times that the wording felt so surface level. For example, there was a poem called “Soar,” which contained this line: “you are the rain, the thunder, and the storm.”
I literally thought the next one was going to be about trying on waterproof mascara.
Moreover, he equates womanhood with perfectionism. How do I know this? He says so in two separate poems, one called “Pioneer” and the other aptly named “Perfection.” This might be more of a me problem since I know that he’s not deliberately putting women on a pedestal. At the same time, in my review of The Shadow of Perseus, I talked about how feminism looks differently to everybody, and this applies here. Rizvi believes that women can do everything as long as they put their mind to it and not listen to the naysayers. He also acknowledges their sadness and suffering and how that is all part of surviving and learning how to overcome obstacles. There’s nothing wrong with all of those ideas. Like feminism, perfectionism looks differently to everybody as well. It’s just that years ago, I heard someone say that feminism was about drinking beer and scratching your butt like men do. In other words, feminism is all about women having agency and being human, even that means being flawed. I would’ve loved to have poems that discuss ladies and all of their flaws because everyone is imperfect regardless of what gender they are.
In conclusion, Her She Lady: A Tribute to Womanhood by Shah Asad Rizvi is another accessible poetry collection and definitely has the ability to empower those who read it. It’s apparent that Rizvi cherishes women, whether that’s a daughter, niece, sister, cousin, friend, lover, or mother, and is willing to support them. In other words, he is a good male ally even though he has a certain idea of them, specifically how they are and should be. Then, again feminism looks differently to everybody. Like Rizvi’s other poetry books, I would recommend this to those who love poetry and empowering women as well as to those who are getting into the genre. As a woman, I appreciate this collection as it gave me wings to expand more of my horizon whether that’s in books or promoting this website and my podcast. Thank you Shah Asad Rizvi for that!
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