Review: Princess – A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

#ReadingIsResistance

Princess – A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia
by Jean Sasson

Title: Princess – A True Story Of Life Behind The Veil In Saudi Arabia
Author: Jean Sasson
Published: 2001
ISBN-13: 9780967673745
Publisher:Windsor-Brooke Books
Twitter: @JeanSasson

What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture

No matter what we do, our future is linked to one prerequisite:  the degree of kindness in the man who rules us. (p. 138)

In some ways, Jean Sasson’s Princess reads like a breathless, salacious tell-all.  A behind the scenes story of life as a princess in the Saudi royal family.  But beneath the glamorous veneer are stories of torture, rape, and misogyny.  It confirms every horrible thing we Westerners have ever heard about the treatment of women in the Middle East.

The princess in this book is called Sultana Al Sa’ud who met Sasson in 1983 while Sasson was living in Saudi Arabia.  They became friends, and Sultana began to tell her story, which then became the book.

Behind the veil, Sultana is said to be smart and funny, and beautiful.  She wants the freedom to choose her destiny, the right to decide how to live her life.  But in front of the veil, Sultana is confronted with the reality that a woman’s life is never her own.  Especially a woman of the royal family.

The men are controlling.  Marriages are arranged.  Women and children are treated as nothing more than pets and toys.  Sultana’s brother gets all the attention and is allowed to do heinous things with no regard or reprimand.  He is after all, male.  And males of the royal family are given free rein to do as they like with the riches made available to them.

Females, on the other hand, are only allowed to do what the males allow.  And females are monitored closely.  There’s little that comes as a surprise in Sultana’s story.

Given this rich background, Sasson’s gossipy writing style  gives Sultana’s story a more fictional flavor than Sultana deserves.  There are many other reviews available which call into question the veracity of Sultana’s story.  I don’t quite know what to make of this so-called controversy.

My take away from the book is what one is supposed to take away.  Women are treated horribly in the Middle East and the world has much work to do in ensuring the civil rights of women.  I’m not sure Princess does much to advance that cause.  It reads more Jackie Collins than anything.  I’d suggest giving Princess a pass and read Nnedi Okorafor’s brilliant science fiction series, Binti  or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, which are both more entertaining than Princess.

#readingisresistance is a collaboration between readers and book bloggers who believe in the activism of reading; especially in the current political climate. Reading enriches, teaches, and allows us to experience the lives of others. It leads us to understanding. It forces us to confront the hard questions, and asks us to engage with the world in a way which leads to change. Join the resistance, read.

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Review: Cut Both Ways

#ReadingIsResistance

Cut Both Ways
by Carrie Mesrobian

Title: Cut Both Ways
Author: Carrie Mesrobian
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-234988-0
Publisher: Harper

What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture

Home feels like Angus, and it feels like her [Brandy] and I wish I could tell him that – tell both of them that.  (p. 116)

Will Caynes is torn.  Between his upscale mom, and his down and out dad.  Between Brandy and Angus, his best friends and lovers.  Most of all, Will is torn about his sexuality.

I read Cut Both Ways in one overnight sitting.  My tumultuous emotional life keeping me from rest, Will’s struggle kept me engaged.  As I’ve said in other reviews, I identify with the confused.  The not quite one thing, but not quite the other either.  These stories fascinate me not only because I want to see how the characters navigate this in-betweeness but because I identify so closely with their struggles.  Being turned against by people who don’t want to understand, being afraid to be our own in-between selves, that’s my entire life.  The fear is ever-present.  We just want to be accepted by those we love.

As I write this, I keep thinking of the other books I read with bisexual protagonists. Etta in Not Otherwise Specified is the only one who comes to terms with her sexuality.  She finds her strength in owning who she is, a performer who also happens to be bi.  Austin in Grasshopper Jungle and Will in Cut Both Ways, both struggle mightily.

In her Author’s Note, Carrie Mesrobian writes:

Bisexual erasure is the willful disbelief that people can be attracted to both genders, as well as the tendency to emphasize sexual identities in people that fit the observer’s own narrative, e.g. a man who is bisexual is really a gay man in denial; a woman who is bisexual is just doing it for male attention.  Bisexual erasure can be perpetrated by gay or straight people.  (p. 342)

Life is complicated enough without having to battle other people’s prejudices.  Will’s life is certainly complicated by the many lives he has to navigate, and while nothing in the end is resolved for him, he learns life does go on, and the complications will work themselves out.  Eventually.

#readingisresistance is a collaboration between readers and book bloggers who believe in the activism of reading; especially in the current political climate. Reading enriches, teaches, and allows us to experience the lives of others. It leads us to understanding. It forces us to confront the hard questions, and asks us to engage with the world in a way which leads to change. Join the resistance, read.

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