Meatless Days is a book that encompasses person memoir, the history of the development of Pakistan, and female position within Pakistani culture. Suleri jumps from the present to the past, from the United States to Pakistan, and from the privileged world of Yale in New Haven to the traditional realm of cultural traditions. Both the clash of modern and traditional cultures as well as the exile versus the homeland is addressed in her beautiful prose.The female Pakistani author, Sara Suleri addresses the ontological landscape of her narrative as the role of both a Pakistani female and an exile. Through Pakistani’s role as the "alien double" in relation to the West, Suleri sees herself as the American Pakistani also as the alien double of her own culture. Through her misunderstanding of some of her own cultural traditions, she sees herself as existing in between two cultures and two ideologies, neither one nor the other. Sara, through her stories of her father’s work for Pakistan and his political machinations, Suleri presents history within a human frame. She also illustrates her own imagining of what
In Meatless Days, post-colonialism is used, like the English language itself, self-consciously. Post-colonialism and English have become not just historical links to the canon, but tools used by the authors to communicate their unique, non-Western visions of life. Discussion of post-colonialism in these novels illustrates the confrontations of two worlds, Western and colonized, but this is conflict is not bemoaned or decried. In fact, post-colonial rhetoric, metaphors, and imagery have been appropriated in both, as has the very use of English. Meatless Days delivers a forceful image of a unique culture that has collided with Western tradition in no uncertain way. Works such as these can illustrate the effect the fermenting residue of colonial power will ultimately have on nations confronting the dual identities of indigenous and imposed culture. An apt analogy lies in the derivative of cricket played by the native populations of some Indonesian islands. Discouraged by British missionaries and early colonial outposts from pursuing their traditional form of mostly theatrical warfare and their pagan rituals, they coopted cricket, which the colonials were eager to disseminate. Transforming it, they play it as a multi-day ceremonial celebration in full traditional garb and with much of the showy feints and retreats characteristic of their original inter-tribal conflicts.Although Meatless Days is non-hronological, a significant amount of the text address the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the resulting confusion: "When in 1947 Mountbatten's scissors clipped at the map of India and handed over what Jinnah fastidiously called a moth-eaten Pakistan...those very people must have worked with speedy fidelity all through the crazy winter of 1946, realigning their spatial perspective with something of the maniacal neatness of a Mughal miniaturist" . The religious/ethnic conflict on the subcontinent has become a prototype irredentist dispute of the kind now manifesting itself in many ex-colonies: Ireland, the Middle East, India and Pakistan, etc. Neither of these novels is about post-colonialism. Theses authors do not stake claim to canonization by appealing to current historical and political sensibilities, but by presenting a unique synthesis of their literary predecessors and native cultures.
Meatless Days, colored by the effects of colonialism, provides a unique vision that is not explicitly post-colonial in nature. Meatless Days treats multiple themes (gender and sibling relations, political strife, religion, expatriatism, etc.), but above all it is a personal novel, a celebration and remembrance of her English mother. In communicating her personal vision, Suleri necessarily writes about colonialism, for she is a Pakistani. However, as a celebration of her mother, post-colonialism is conceptualized as a communicating tool and metaphor. She asks, "How can I bring them together in a room, that most reticent woman and that most demanding man?... Papa's powerful discourse would surround her night and day".
Meatless Days succeed as vessels for communicating a unique vision. It is evident that Suleri has become adept at utilizing her cultures' encounters with the West to their own ends. This cooptation of things Western, including English itself, provides an ironically effective method of forcing Westerners to reevaluate their beliefs in regard to the canon among other things. These are precisely the contemporary writers who can force open the canon. In an era where post-colonialism, the third world, and ethnicity are central concerns, the sensibilities that shape the canon may be ready to accept Meatless Days. Certainly her vision, quality, resourcefulness, and groundbreaking topicality recommend them.