Category Archives: March – Women’s History Month

#ReadingIsResistance, March – Women’s History Month

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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What’s Auntie Reading Now? Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper
by Kurt Beyer

Did Not Finish (DNF)

This isn’t about Grace Hopper, it’s about the evolution of software. It’s dry and gets technical. The clue to it not being about Grace came about a hundred pages from the end, when the author drops the bombshell that Grace was an alcoholic and wound up in the hospital because she tried to commit suicide. Nothing in the pages before gave even a clue what was happening to Grace that might lead to such an event. No more slogging for me! I’ll find another book on Grace to read. One that’s more biographical in nature.

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Review: Prague Winter

Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright
Prague Winter
by Madeleine Albright

#ReadingIsResistance

Title: Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
Author: Madeleine Albright
Published: 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-203031-3
Publisher: Harper Collins

I have long admired Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become Secretary of State in the US.  To rise to that level and make a difference seems to me to be an astonishingly difficult job.  To do it as a woman raises the difficulty scale even higher.

In The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, Albright discusses the role religion has played in world affairs, something that isn’t going to go away any time soon.  She also reveals hard truths about herself, including the fact she didn’t know she had lost relatives to the Holocaust or that she was, in fact, Jewish.

Prague Winter is a product of Madame Secretary’s research into her own history, which is intertwined inextricably with Czechoslovakia and World War II.

This is not an easy book to read.  This is well-researched, often emotional, retelling of one little girl’s life as Hitler rose to power and began to exterminate millions of people.  Albright was only a child, but her memories, backed up with research, make for sorrowful reading.

Focusing on Czechoslovakia and its struggle to remain a united, independent country in the face of internal divisiveness between Czechs and Slovaks, and the onslaught of Nazis and Communists under Stalin, Albright’s story reminds the reader that nothing, truly, is every simple when zealots and ideologues are in charge.

She is fair in her assessment, through the long lens of history, that decisions made by Western leaders, while short sighted, were what politics of the time demanded.  Neville Chamberlain will always be remembered as an appeaser, but what is rarely discussed is the force of Hitler’s personality and his ability to fool people into thinking he was a reasonable human being who simply wanted to strengthen Germany in the face of the disempowering Versailles treaty of World War I.

Albright’s story is one of heartbreak, and agony.  It’s also an important story to know, because the true atrocities of Hitler and Stalin often get masked by the statistics and overwhelming amount of information available.  Madeleine Albright’s story is about one family, and one country’s struggle during World War II.  It puts into perspective the horrifying truth of what it is to be “other,” when that means certain death.

#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: Hitler’s Furies

Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower
Hitler’s Furies
by Wendy Lower

#ReadingIsResistance

Title: Hitler’s Furies
Author: Wendy Lower
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0547-86338-2
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Wendy Lower focuses on the women in Eastern Poland serving the Nazi regime during World War II.

While narrow, this exploration of women’s roles in the bureaucracy of the Third Reich is grimly fascinating.  All roles from civilians through low-level administrators to those with access to the powerful men who made the decisions are covered.

What was it like to live during this horrific period of time in Europe?  And what was it like for women whose roles were limited both by the Nazis, and their gender?  70 years after the end of World War II, a multi-disciplinary list of researchers and readers are still trying to come to grips with the horror of the Holocaust.  I find myself strangely fascinated by it and, like so many others, keep asking the question, “How could this happen?”

Despite the sometimes salacious, gossipy nature of the narrative, Wendy Lower offers a look at women in history that has only begun to be researched.  Most women who served the Nazis were looked over or not taken seriously because of their gender.  Yet, here are more examples than I could care for of women who were closely involved in the banal bureaucracy which kept the camps running.

As with all books having to do with atrocities, the sheer horror described can be nightmare inducing.  There’s no getting around that if one wants to know what happened.

Hitler’s Furies is not for everyone.  But I do believe it covers an important, often overlooked, facet of Nazi bureaucracy.  The world needs to know what happened then, because something like is happening now.

#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: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be Feminists
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

#readingisresistance

Title: We Should All Be Feminists
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published: 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-101-91176-1
Publisher: Anchor Books

Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problems of gender. … It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.  (p. 41)

This is a little book I want to send everyone I know.  But especially the young women.    It’s also hard to choose just one quote to use in a review.  I found myself wanting to quote the entire essay.

Based on her TedTalk, Adichie’s essay is rich and powerful.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s perspective is that of black woman who has experienced sexism in both her home country of Nigeria, and in America.  She addresses herself to the men she encounters and explains what it feels like to be looked upon as an object, especially by those who have experienced other forms of oppression – like racism.

I identify as a white woman born to a certain amount of privilege because of my whiteness.  There was much to learn from Adichie about being a black woman.  And many things she says about sexism and the need for feminism resonate deeply.

This essay touches on the many ways sexism is normalized in all parts of society; from schools appointing only boy class monitors to corporations with mostly men on their boards and how marriages can be affected by this normalization.

This little book is something I’ll be reading again, and again.  Adichie’s eloquence is something to savored, and thought over as we continue to confront the issues of gender equality around the world.

#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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