In My Hands Today…

Finding Nouf – Zoë Ferraris

2302650In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman. The missing woman is Nouf Shrawi, one of the several sheltered teenaged daughters of a powerful local family. Hired to track her and her potential abductor is Nayir, a solitary, pious desert guide of dubious origin, and a friend of the family. As Nayir uncovers clues that only serve to deepen the mystery behind Nouf’s disappearance, he teams up with Katya, a liberated Saudi woman who is engaged to one of Nouf’s brothers.

As they move closer to the truth, the pair’s detective work unveils layers of secrets. In a land of prayers, purity, and patriarchy, the dreams of mere mortals often go unrealized, and the consequences of misbehaviour for both men and women are disastrous. The final revelation of the truth forces Nayir to confront his own attitudes about women and society and in his deepening relationship with Katya, to face up to his own long-denied yearnings for love and intimacy.

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In My Hands Today…

City of Veils – Zoë Ferraris

7168509The body of a young woman is discovered on the grimy sands of Jeddah beach; soon afterwards, a strong-minded American woman finds herself alone and afraid in the most repressive city on earth when her husband suddenly disappears.

Investigating police officer Osama Ibrahim, forensic scientist Katya Hijazi and her friend, the strictly devout Bedouin guide Nayir Sharqi join forces to search out the truth in the scorching city streets and the vast, lethal emptiness of the desert beyond.

Breathtakingly fast-paced, sure-footed and thrilling, this novel paints in dazzling colours a city of veils in which more is hidden than is revealed, and nothing is what it seems.

In My Hands Today…

Inside The Kingdom: My Life In Saudi Arabia – Carmen Bin Ladin

266233Osama bin Laden’s former sister-in-law provides a penetrating, unusually intimate look into Saudi society and the bin Laden family’s role within it, as well as the treatment of Saudi women. On September 11th, 2001, Carmen bin Ladin heard the news that the Twin Towers had been struck. She instinctively knew that her ex-brother-in-law was involved in these horrifying acts of terrorism, and her heart went out to America. She also knew that her life and the lives of her family would never be the same again. Carmen bin Ladin, half Swiss and half Persian, married into-and later divorced from-the bin Laden family and found herself inside a complex and vast clan, part of a society that she neither knew nor understood. Her story takes us inside the bin Laden family and one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressed kingdoms in the world.

In My Hands Today…

Princess Sultana’s Circle (The Princess Trilogy #3) – Jean Sasson

18617With Princess Sultana’s Circle, the extraordinary story of Princess Sultana continues. The forced marriage of Sultana’s niece to a cruel and depraved older man, and Sultana’s discovery of the harem of sex slaves kept by a royal cousin, makes this brave royal princess more determined than ever to fight the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia. Princess Sultana’s cause is given an extra sense of urgency against the background of increased dissent against the Al Sa’uds, and the looming spectre of Islamic fundamentalism. But an extended family camping trip in the desert brings the luxury-loving Sultana and relatives closer to their nomadic roots, and gives her the strength to carry on the fight for women’s rights in all Muslim countries.This book paints a horrifying reality for women of the desert kingdom. It is a haunting look at the danger of Saudi male dominance and the desperate lives of the women they rule.

In My Hands Today…

Princess Sultana’s Daughters (The Princess Trilogy #2) – Jean Sasson

266242Sasson’s sequel to Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil is another page-turner related by “Princess Sultana.” A member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, Sultana now is married to a progressive prince, but this privileged status does not protect her or her two daughters, Maha and Amani from the country’s repressive laws against women. Though a devout Muslim, Sultana believes the entrenched male power structure has perverted religious doctrine to justify veiling women and depriving them of basic civil liberties. The lack of opportunity to forge equal relationships with men before and after marriage, Sultana argues, is why one of her daughters became fanatically religious and the other suffered a mental breakdown. As second-generation members of the royal family who have benefited from Saudi oil wealth, Maha and Amani have known nothing but opulence and wealth from the moment of their birth. Yet, stilled by the unbearable restrictive lifestyle imposed on them, Maha and Amani have reacted in equally desperate ways.Maha is a headstrong beauty driven by fear and isolation due to Saudi Arabia’s feudal justice. Described by her father as a girl of brilliant fragments, Maha’s gifted mind cannot focus on one goal. When Maha becomes involved in a lesbian relationship, she ends having an emotional breakdown and requires psychiatric treatment in London. Amani, the youngest daughter, rebels in her way during the religious frenzy of Haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah. Once a sweet and placid animal-lover, Amani emerges almost overnight from her dormant religious faith and embraces Islamic beliefs with unnerving intensity. Amani’s fundamental fanaticism threatens to destroy her mother’s personal quest to imporove women’s lot in her native land. With candor and humility, Sultana shares the joy, frustration, and dark intervals of my fear of Saudi Arabian motherhood and marriage.

In My Hands Today…

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (The Princess Trilogy #1) – Jean Sasson

Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband, her sons, and her country.

Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the king. For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She must hide her identity for fear that the religious leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her honesty. Only a woman in her position could possibly hope to escape from being revealed and punished, despite her cloak and anonymity.

Sultana tells of her own life, from her turbulent childhood to her arranged marriage–a happy one until her husband decided to displace her by taking a second wife–and of the lives of her sisters, her friends and her servants. Although they share affection, confidences and an easy camaraderie within the confines of the women’s quarters, they also share a history of appalling oppression’s, everyday occurrences that in any other culture would be seen as shocking human rights violations; thirteen-year-old girls forced to marry men five times their age, young women killed by drowning, stoning, or isolation in the women’s room, a padded, windowless cell where women are confined with neither light nor conversation until death claims them.By speaking out, Sultana risks bringing the wrath of the Saudi establishment upon her head and the heads of her children.

But by telling her story to Jean Sasson, Sultana has allowed us to see beyond the veils of this secret society, to the heart of a nation where sex, money, and power reign supreme.