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Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women Paperback – December 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

Geraldine Brooks spent two years as a Middle East news correspondent, covering the death of Khomeini and the like. She also learned a lot about what it's like for Islamic women today. Brooks' book is exceedingly well-done--she knows her Islamic lore and traces the origins of today's practices back to Mohammed's time. Personable and very readable, Brooks takes us through the women's back door entrance of the Middle East for an unusual and provocative view.

From Publishers Weekly

Having spent six years covering the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks presents an exploration of the daily life of Muslim women and the often contradictory forces that shape their lives.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (December 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385475772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385475778
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the novels The Secret Chord, Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, March (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006) and Year of Wonders, recently optioned by Andrew Lincoln. She has also written three works of non-fiction: Nine Parts of Desire, based on her experiences among Muslim women in the mideast, Foreign Correspondence, a memoir about an Australian childhood enriched by penpals around the world and her adult quest to find them, and The Idea of Home:Boyer Lectures 2011. Brooks started out as a reporter in her hometown, Sydney, and went on to cover conflicts as a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She now lives on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts with her husband Tony Horwitz, two sons, a horse, two dogs and three alpacas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 162 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
These reviews are such extremes. Mulsims saying Brookes is an enemy of Islam etc. Others saying this represents the truth about Islam. What is required is some balance. The author is right about the sorry state of womens rights in Islamic countries. Her tone, while caustic, is entertaining and while I am a Muslim, I do not find it insulting at all. She is wrong on substantive areas of Islamic law. For example, she is woefully ignorant on divorce where the Maliki school allows divoce on the grounds of incompatability (contrary to her assertions). She also makes a great deal hinge on the age of the Prophets wife Aisha without even mentioning the controversy here (a comprehensive study by Pakistani Islamist scholars, Tehkik e Umar e Aisha, concludes she was 17 to 26 at the time of marriage). She does not search for truth and is only too ready to accept caricatures.
All of this said, we Muslims need to think hard about her views as we create the surface perceptions she reflects. Rather than condemn her work, we need to ask outselves why we give others such impressions. In return outsides owe us to dig deeper for the truth.
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161 of 169 people found the following review helpful By J. Marren VINE VOICE on December 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Books on Islam generate a lot of controversy these days, especially after 9/11. Having read several I found this one fairly balanced. Brooks is a reporter by trade, which at times leads to a bit of superficiality in the treatment of complex topics but on the whole makes this a relatively dispassionate treatment of women and Islam.
Of course Brooks brings a Western point of view to her subject, and is intensely critical of a system where women are subject to male family members with few personal rights. She is careful to point out that Islamic law does provide for inheritance by women and allows a type of pre-marriage contract that can protect them from the husband's polygamy, give them the right of divorce, establish that their education will be allowed to continue, etc. But one suspects that these privileges are available only to the wealthy as a practical matter.
Brooks is careful to distinguish various Muslim societies from one another, just as one sees huge differences among Christian countries. She along with most authors I've read has little good to say about Saudi Arabia. But interestingly, she identifies Iran as a more progressive society in which women are permitted to work and participate in politics. And Egypt is described as having a lively, sensual culture that she believes will never be snuffed out by fundamentalists.
One of the more disturbing chapters of the book deals with education. The number of women in school is unacceptably low,education often ceases as women are wed at a very early age, and much schooling is focused on the study of Islam. Even more disturbing is the increasing control fundamentalists exert over educational institutions, which results in a student body much more conservative than the faculty who were educated in more open-minded times.
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118 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks spent six years as a journalist in the Middle East. She's also the wife of Tony Horwitz, who wrote "Confederates in the Attic" and "Baghdad Without a Map." I read both of these books and remember how fondly he speaks of her. And so reading this book was, in a way, getting to know her too.
Ms. Brooks is a secular feminist. She makes no secret of that. And, as a woman, she was able to gain entry into a the world behind the heavy veils, which she often needed to wear herself. She spoke with many woman, did a lot of research, and moved within this special world as an observer and witness to her times.
Her interviews ranged from the Queen of Jordan to a Palestinian woman who lived in with her husband, his second wife and all their children in a modest hut. Some of the women she talked with were highly educated; others had never learned to read and write. They all accepted their religion and were able to express their point of view in a way I could understand even though some of them were often hostile to westerners.
Ms. Brooks tried to cover a lot in her book -- the treatment of women in different countries, the practice of genital mutilation, education of women, legal status. She even discussed the contradictions about the status of women all the way back to Mohammed's time. That's a big order for a little book. It was not always successful. It only opened my mind. It did not satisfy it, leaving me with a desire to learn more. And especially wanting to read some works written from an Islamic woman's point of view.
Also, since its publication in 1995, much of it is dated. Her interview with Mrs. Khomeini at the time of the Ayatollah's death took place in 1989. And, more recently, Jordan's King Hussein and Syria's Hafez Assad have passed away. But I must say that this book did open my eyes. It's time now to learn more.
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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Jedidiah Carosaari VINE VOICE on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an exquisitely written book. Brooks has great talent for pulling the reader into the mind of the people she tells about, and especially, I found as a man, pulling you into the minds and lives of women. I found myself empathizing with the women in ways that only real life can provide. It is amazing what Brooks has experienced, but it is far more amazing what the women she tells of have experienced.

Brooks writes honestly and directly about the good and bad of Islam, and how it influences women. She doesn't pull any punches, but also is not writing to denigrate, as she finds aspects of official and folk Islam that both hurt and assist women. She speaks of the positive attitude Islam has towards sexuality, being largely uncorrupted by the Greek dualism that invaded later Christianity, so that, within marriage, Muslims are encouraged to celebrate the gift of God in sex. Indeed, this provides the title of the book, as Ali, the 4th Khalifa, speaks of how sexual desire is 1/10th the man's, and 9/10ths the woman's. Of course, this provides later motive to sequester women, put them in hijab, and restrict them, so that the "ever-devouring vagina", as later Islamic jurists speak of, does not overcome the men around them.

Since Brooks relies primarily on her experiences, with what she's seen with her own eyes and heard with her own ears, she is hard to argue with. This is the plight of many women in the Muslim world. But lest we think these are limited experiences of one Western woman talking with a few Arab and Persian women scattered in a few countries, Brooks has also done extensive research to intersperse between her stories- relying on the Qur'an, Hadith, Ijtihad, and Muslim history.
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