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Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia [Kindle Edition]

Jean Sasson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (690 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
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Book Description

In this updated 20th anniversary edition, PRINCESS describes the life of Sultana Al Sa'ud, a princess in the royal house of Saudi Arabia. Hidden behind her black veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband and her country.

Sultana tells of appalling oppressions, 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."

PRINCESS is a testimony to a woman of indomitable spirit and courage, and you will never forget her or her Muslim sisters.

A New York Times bestseller, PRINCESS was named one of the 500 Great Books by Women since 1300. It was also an Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club and a Reader's Digest Selection.

The complete Princess trilogy is also available as an ebook for the first time. For the 3-in-1 ebook, please visit:


"Absolutely riveting and profoundly sad..." --People magazine

"A chilling story...a vivid account of an air-conditioned nightmare..." --Entertainment Weekly

"Must-reading for anyone interested in human rights." --USA Today

"Shocking...candid...sad, sobering, and compassionate..." --San Francisco Chronicle

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this consistently gripping work, a Literary Guild alternate selection in cloth, the American-born Sasson recounts the life story of a Saudi princess she met while living in Saudi Arabia, offering a glimpse of the appalling conditions endured by even privileged women in the Middle East. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

One must keep in mind the context of time and place when reading this emotional and exciting book to alleviate some of the horror of the injustices endured by the women described here. Equality of men and women has not worked out in any society, but the status of women in Islam is more problematic in that canon law is applied according to the social climate. Consequently, countries influenced by the West, such as Egypt, are more relaxed than countries like Saudi Arabia that are ruled by strict Hanbali law, which subjects women to unwelcome marriages, execution at whim, and the boredom of purdah . In this book, Sasson ( The Rape of Kuwait , Knightsbridge Pub. Co., 1991) tells the fascinating story of "Sultana," an unidentified Saudi princess who yearns for recognition in her own right, not as an adjunct of men. For those who wish to know more, Soraya Altorki's Women in Saudi Arabia ( LJ 1/86) and Paryeen Shaukat Ali's Status of Women in the Muslim World (Aziz Pub., 1975. o.p.) are good. Recommended for popular collections. (Illustrations not seen.) Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.
- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4764 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J17GY4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,543 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
223 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming Truth and Insight June 6, 2002
By A Customer
As an American Muslim woman who once lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I became overwhelmed by Sultana's compelling account. As a Muslim, I appreciated her explicit reminder that the transgressions of the Saudi men depicted in the work did not represent Islam. Rather, their misinterpretation of the Quran and Haddith led them to oppress the women of their country, not their true and accurate following of our religion. As one who has worn the abaaya and the veil, and who has met countless women trapped in polygamy in Saudi Arabia and in the United States, I can relate to her experience. Yet, as I was fortunate to be an American in Saudi Arabia, I often did not have to deal firsthand with the cultural oppression of Saudi men; however, I feel that her plight and those of our Muslim sisters is my own. Although Sultana comes from the wealthiest of Saudi families, she accurately and adequately represents the lives of most Saudi women, regardless of socioeconomic status. Her story is real and true; she did not exaggerate or stretch the truth. This work deservedly holds a position as one of the top 500 books for and about women, and should be read by everyone.
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102 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Women's Rights Must-Read May 6, 2001
In the course of the true life stories found in the book Princess, by Jean P. Sasson, the reader becomes enveloped in the terrible and heart-wrenching lifestyles of middle-eastern women. Through the course of the narrative, though horrifying stories are related in a truly eye-opening manner, the reader discovers a true slice of Princess Sultana's imaginative and vivacious personality, and weeps as it slowly becomes lost in the process of womanhood in Saudi Arabia. "The history of our women is buried behind the black veil of secrecy. Neither our births or deaths are made official in any public record. The common emotion expressed at the birth of a female is either sorrow or shame." These few sentences, which bring about the whole theme of the non-entity of women, lead us to much more shocking crimes against women which, in that society, are not considered to be crimes whatsoever. The stories of Nadia, who was drowned in the family pool by her father as a way of "protecting her honor", her sister Sara, who attempted suicide after being sold as a wife to a sick and sexually brutal elderly man, and a brave Filipino maid named Madeline, who was raped nightly by all the male members of the family she served under, illustrate how Jean Sasson was able to intertwine other supporting character's stories with the life of Princess Sultana effectively and believably. Some stories, which show how these incredibly courageous women, can survive in this kind of life, bring the reader to cry and cheer simultaneously. Others, which, sadly, lack the happy ending we could hope for, are gut-wrenching due to the fact that they are horribly true. Behind the black veil of the Muslim women lie incredibly diverse personalities, characters, and spirits, which come alive to us through the voice of Sultana. Read more ›
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129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Additional Truths about this life Behind the Veil February 8, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am an unbiased reader, yet one with first-hand knowledge of social customs of Saudi Arabia. I lived for over 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and worked as a nurse in the King Faisal Spec Hosp and Research Ctr. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the Kingdom and the manner of life for women in that country is fully aware that the stories told in Princess is the sad reality of life for women in that country. The only people who have a hard time believing Jean Sasson are people who have never lived in Saudi or possibly jealous people who simply want to attack a good book. As a nurse, I personally cared for Saudi women at the hospital who had endured horrible acts of cruelty from their Saudi husbands. I can say with certainty that many of the stories told by Jean Sasson are duplicated many times over in the daily lives of women in that country. I took care of a 13year old girl, who was suicidal because she was being forced to marry a very old man in his late 60's. She considered herself bright, and she was, and wanted to be educated and have some choice later in life who she was to marry, but this was her parents decision. They would either give drug therapy or electrical shock in some cases to make the women more compliant! I was the nurse in charge when a Saudi princess was locked away in a private room in the hospital. She had been abducted from the West by her own government and was forced to return to the Kingdom. The look on that poor woman's face when she discovered she had been drugged by her own American doctor and brought back into the country on a private jet, I will never forget! Read more ›
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114 of 128 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can this all be true? November 1, 2001
This an easy to read absolutely riveting account of the lives of upper class Saudi women, written by a member of the royal family. By way of background, the "Princess" of the title is a direct descendant of the founder of the current Saudi monarchy, and has told her story at great personal risk, according to the author. Even taking into account that there are several hundred princes and princesses who claim to be direct descendants, I found it hard to understand how this book, which is actually the first of three, could have been published without its source being discovered, given the unbelievably tight constraints the society places on the behavior of women. Be that as it may, the lives of these women are lived in gilded cages, which is fine if you can totally suppress your personality and intelligence and observe the rules. The ones who can't suffer consequences that I find hard to believe exist in the modern world.
On the surface, life seems pleasant enough--the royal family lives in luxury that is unimaginable even by American standards--once a young couple is married, the building of several palaces seems a matter of course. When the Princess goes on her honeymoon, her new husband buys all the seats in first class so they can have privacy. Yet life is circumscribed severely--education is often withheld from women; husbands are chosen for a girl at a very young age in order to cement family or business alliances, with no regard for suitability in terms of age or personality. Abuse of women in marriage is common. From childhood, the wishes of men are accomodated in all things--a son can take the possessions of his sister without question. Porsches and Rolexes for male teenagers are common.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books I've read!
Published 4 days ago by adrija misra
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear readers of "Pricess", could you please take some ...
Dear readers of "Pricess", could you please take some time and answer a questionnaire about the book ("Princess")? Read more
Published 6 days ago by laisa
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really interesting and well written to see how other culture are in the world
Published 6 days ago by Shannon
3.0 out of 5 stars not really
I didnt like it because a princess struggling in her society is not interesting since HELLO she is a princess what could be her other than being a princess inside a castle with... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Cate
5.0 out of 5 stars It's also very upsetting when you read about the horrible way the...
Very interesting book. It's the kind of book you don't want to put down. It's also very upsetting when you read about the horrible way the women/girls in Saudi Arabia are... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Patio
4.0 out of 5 stars God bless America!!!!
God bless America! Very interesting, painful, funny and inciteful story. Loved Sultana's spunk and spirit. We should be very grateful for what we have.
Published 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars it was very shocking and sad. This book paints a graphic picture of...
it was very shocking and sad. This book paints a graphic picture of what thousands of women around the world are going through.
Published 14 days ago by Deborah kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read.
Published 15 days ago by Fredalind Carr
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener
An eye opener to us Westerners . So happy to be a woman on this side. The reading is easy, moving and interesting. Worth trying.
Published 15 days ago by Margarita Ramirez Vargas
5.0 out of 5 stars The Price of Being A Saudi Princess
This book has opened my eyes to what being a Princess is really like in Saudi Arabia.
Published 16 days ago by EarthAngel
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More About the Author

Jean's first book THE RAPE OF KUWAIT, based on her eye witness reporting on the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops, was an immediate bestseller. Her next three books, PRINCESS, PRINCESS SULTANA'S DAUGHTERS, and PRINCESS SULTANA'S CIRCLE, became international sensations as they were the first books to bring to the western world the shocking stories about life for women in Saudi Arabia. Jean is also the author of MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, about the prison experiences of an Iraqi journalist praised by Saddam Hussein; LOVE IN A TORN LAND: The True Story of a Freedom Fighter's Escape from Iraqi Vengeance which tells the story of a beautiful Kurdish woman; GROWING UP BIN LADEN: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us into Their Secret World; and FOR THE LOVE OF A SON: One Afghan Woman's Quest for Her Stolen Child. Jean's only historical fiction, titled ESTER'S CHILD is said to be a favorite of her readers.

Jean revealed a few stories about her early days in Saudi Arabia in AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA, which is an installment of her memoirs, not yet completed. Jean's latest is YASMEENA'S CHOICE: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival. This is the heart wrenching story of a Lebanese woman who was in Kuwait on the day of the invasion. She was kidnapped and held by Iraqi soldiers, and along with other women, subjected to the vilest brutality. The author has alerted her readers that the book is graphic and for mature audiences only. She is currently writing the 4th book about Saudi Arabia's beloved Princess Sultana, to be titled: PRINCESS: MORE TEARS TO CRY. The much anticipated book will be published in September 2014. Jean's work has been featured in People, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Post, The Sunday London Times, The Guardian, CNN, FOX, NBC, and many other news organizations.

A Note from Author Jean Sasson

Why do I care so much about the plight of women of the world? The answer is simple: because I can't help it.

I grew up in the United States, in a tiny town down South. In my daily experience, women enjoyed full freedom to do as they pleased. During those early years, it was beyond my imagining that women might be discriminated against.

But from a young age, I noticed mankind's occasional unthinking mistreatment of other animals. Such cruelty broke my heart, and I took aggressive action to aid animals in need. Mischievous boys who thought it amusing to tie a bag of rocks to a cat's tail soon learned to avoid me. I cared for a number of animals of my own, including some rather eccentric ones, such as a pet chicken named Prissy that I taught to walk on a lead. Another pet chicken, named Ducky, accompanied me like my little shadow and brought me endless joy. I had a number of cats and, when I grew older, I got my first doggie, a black cocker spaniel named, yes, Blackie! Others - Frisky, Doby, and a Peke named Goo Boo - soon followed.

As I grew older, it seemed that all the homeless dogs and cats in my little town "knew" to gather in our yard, sensing that I could not turn a single one away.

An impulse to save needy animals carried on throughout my entire life, and I was willing to pursue eccentric efforts to save a chained or otherwise mistreated animal. After I moved to Saudi Arabia, our villa in a Saudi neighborhood quickly filled with abandoned dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and even ducks!

Friends who stayed overnight in our home were often confronted with the challenge of sharing their bed with a couple of affectionate cats, of being roused in the morning by songs from caged birds, or of arranging their evening ablutions alongside a surprise in the guest bathroom: a bathtub filled with ducks!

Some people say that my heightened sensitivity is a blessing, while others stamp it a curse. I endorse the "blessing" tag and exult that I've been the joyful "mother" of 31 cats and dogs, the "foster mom" of many others until I could find an appropriate home, as well as the caretaker of too many birds to count. A few years ago a friend from the days of Saudi laughingly confided that my nickname was "The Bird Woman of Riyadh," a title unknown to me during my 12 years of living in the desert kingdom.

In Saudi Arabia, I worked as the Administrative Coordinator of Medical Affairs at The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. Most hospital reports crossed my desk prior to being presented to my boss who was the head of the hospital. Therefore, I was privy to the details of many human tragedies. But the reports that haunted me most were the stories of women who had been brutally mistreated. And, more often than not, it seems, their injuries had been inflicted by the very men who were supposed to protect them. Many Saudi men, of course, were wholly kind to the females in their family. But when the occasional man lashed out at a wife or daughter with cruelty or brutality, the women of the family had nowhere to turn for help. The man's word was absolute law and no outside organization would dare interfere. A woman's helplesness in such a situation is heartrending and nearly unsolvable.

I saw sadness almost every day that I worked at the hospital, most of it associated with women's issues. Unfortunately, there was little I could do - for I, too, was a disenfranchised woman, in a country not my own.

But I met several Saudi women who desperately plotted for change. One was a Saudi princess, a woman the world now knows as Princess Sultana Al-Saud. Understanding her culture well, she described that nothing would crack Saudi men's determination to maintain the status quo...nothing, that is, short of worldwide indignation. For this reason, the princess was fierce in her belief that the story of Saudi women must be told. Most importantly, she wanted her own life experiences to be the story that inflamed the world.

For years we discussed this possibility, but after my book THE RAPE OF KUWAIT lent me the clout of a bestseller, we knew the time was right to expose the tragedies that afflict so many women on this earth. By then, we were both mature women who understood that discrimination against women is not limited to Saudi Arabia or to the Middle East, but is a worldwide problem, aggrieving women in Western nations, too. But first we would tell HER story.

Storytelling is powerful. A powerful book or movie can inform and inflame. That is why I think it is wonderful that so many books are now being written about the plight of women worldwide. I support all authors who make this important subject their life's work.

I am proud that PRINCESS was the first book to be written about the life of a Saudi Arabian woman, because Saudi life for females is completely unique and cannot compare with any other Middle Eastern country, or for that matter, any country in the world.

After PRINCESS, I shared other, very powerful stories. After traveling to Iraq in July 1998, I wrote about Mayada Al-Askari in MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ. Later I shared the story of Joanna's great adventure, the story of a Kurdish woman's escape from Northern Iraq in the book LOVE IN A TORN LAND. Soon came the compelling story of Osama's wife and son, called: GROWING UP BIN LADEN. My latest account is FOR THE LOVE OF A SON: ONE AFGHAN WOMAN'S QUEST FOR HER STOLEN CHILD, a story that will make you weep and make you laugh. I told a few of my own stories in AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA. In YASMEENA'S CHOICE, I write about one of the bravest women I've ever met, a Lebanese woman caught up in Gulf War I.

I hope that my books contribute to your learning and understanding about women of the world, and that you, too, work to ensure that every human being - male or female - has the right to lead a life of dignity.

Jean Sasson

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