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Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arab Paperback – January 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Windsor-Brooke Books, LLC; 1 edition (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967673747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967673745
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (705 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author


Jean grew up in a small town in Alabama. From the time she could read, she was a voracious reader. By the beginning of her teens had read every book in the school library. At fourteen she started saving her small allowance until she had enough to purchase a book. She then started her book collection when she bought her first book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer--an unusual choice for a young girl from the Deep South. She wanted a good read and she wanted value for money, so she decided that the best option for her limited budget was to purchase the book with the most pages.

At school Mrs. Sam Jackson, her beloved literature teacher, soon noticed Jean's preoccupation and took it upon herself to make weekly trips to a nearby college library to exchange a selection of books to satisfy Jean's reading needs.

And today? When not absorbed in writing or the business of being a celebrated author, she reads and reads, maybe a book a day--literary success has enabled her to buy a variety of books; no longer selected by the number of pages.

Her literary tastes are widely varied, and she has a long list of favorites. Heading that list is Sir Winston Churchill, the prolific writer and leader of Britain in the dark years of World War II. Other historic figures, like Napoleon Bonaparte and T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), satisfy her two literary loves, history and travel.

The works of Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark and Sir Richard Burton opened her mind's eye to the fascinations and mysteries of the Middle East, and those first musings led to her writing success.

No longer content to only read about the magical world of the Middle East, Jean, armed with hospital administrative skills in addition to her literary thirst, sought and found the ideal opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge--knowledge of that closed and mysterious land, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 1978 she was selected to work at the most prestigious royal hospital in the Middle East, The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in the Saudi capital Riyadh. There her talents blossomed. She became the Administrative Coordinator of Medical Affairs and personal assistant to the hospital medical and executive director, Dr. Nizar Feteih. Through him she was introduced to various Saudi royals, including King Khalid and his Crown Prince Fah'd, who succeeded as King on Khalid's death in 1982.

In 1983, a close friendship between Jean and another royal, Princess Sultana, was forged and years later, based on that friendship, Jean was able to write her widely acclaimed Princess Trilogy. Jean and the princess recently collaborated on a fourth book, Princess, More Tears to Cry, telling the world of the vast gender changes now occurring in the desert kingdom.

Jean worked for four years at the King Faisal Hospital and during that time met the man she was to marry, Peter Sasson, an international man who came from an unusual background. Peter Sasson was a British citizen born in Egypt to a British/Italian father and Yugoslav mother.

Jean lived in Saudi Arabia for twelve years. During those years she devoted herself to activities that would form the bedrock of her career as a writer when she returned to America. She met and made friends with Arab women from the Middle East before leaving Riyadh in April 1991. (At this time Jean and Peter divorced, although they remained close friends.)

After living and traveling in the Middle East for so many years, she felt a special affection for the people of the region. She traveled to Bahrain, The Emirates, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and other countries in the area. She visited war-torn Lebanon and Kuwait, before and after the first Gulf War. After Saddam Hussein's army invaded the country of Kuwait, Jean became concerned with the fate of the innocent Kuwaitis who were victims of the invaders. Her concern drove her to contact the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States, Sheik Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, requesting his advice on traveling to areas housing Kuwaiti refugees.

Armed with a letter of introduction from the Kuwaiti Ambassador, Jean flew Europe and the Middle East to conduct interviews with Kuwaitis. While in Riyadh, Kuwait's Minister of Information invited her to fly to the Saudi mountain village of Taif, Saudi Arabia, where the Kuwaiti royals had formed a government in exile. There she interviewed the Emir and the Crown Prince of Kuwait, among other high ranking Kuwaiti officials, rare interviews that were given to few other journalists or writers.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, Jean traveled to Cairo, Egypt and then to London, meeting many dozens of Kuwaiti citizens living in exile. Jean used the invaluable material she gathered about Kuwaitis on the day of the Iraqi invasion, to write her bestselling book, The Rape of Kuwait.

The book sold over a million copies in one month, proving to the world that ordinary people truly cared about the small country and its people. In fact, Jean Sasson was the first and only author to write about the innocent Kuwaitis who were caught in the cruel grip of the Iraqi invasion. Soldiers from various countries sent to the area to fight for the freedom of Kuwait, were presented with free copies of the book, a kindly gesture made by the Kuwaiti government, so that soldiers might know what they were fighting for, which was freedom.

Her devotion to the cause of Kuwait won her an invitation to return to Kuwait on the Kuwaiti government sponsored "FREEDOM FLIGHT." Staying a month in the ravaged country, she joined joyful Kuwaitis celebrating their hard-won freedom, even as she mourned with the Kuwaitis who had lost loved ones. Never forgetting what she had seen, over the years she continued her writings and concern about the missing Kuwaitis lost to the Iraqi prison system, despite the many efforts made by Kuwaiti royals as well as ordinary Kuwaiti citizens to gain their freedom.

Her care for the people of the Middle East continued, taking her to unusual stories. In 1998 she requested an invitation from Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq. Although she was the author of the book that had greatly displeased Saddam (The Rape of Kuwait) she received a personal invite from the Iraqi dictator. Traveling to Iraq alone and without protection, she saw for herself the privations being suffered by those most vulnerable: the women and children; deprivations at the hands of Saddam Hussein. While in Iraq, she was assigned a woman from one of the leading families of Iraq as her translator, Mayada Al-Askari. Her bestselling book, Mayada, Daughter of Iraq was a result of that trip.

Living in Atlanta, Georgia, Jean wrote book after book, until today she is the author of 12 published books. One of the most successful was the Princess Trilogy, a series of books about her friend, Princess Sultana al-Sa'ud, which was named as one of the most important books written in the past eight-hundred years by a woman. The books have sold millions of copies worldwide.

Jean's books have won a number of awards. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, an organization in Dubai which promotes and recognizes cross-cultural understanding, chose Jean's critically acclaimed book Ester's Child as a book that best promotes world peace.

Jean is the author of Love in a Torn Land, the true story of a Kurdish/Arab woman who joined her freedom fighting Kurdish husband in the mountains of Northern Iraq. After being gassed and temporarily blinded, the Kurdish heroine made her way out of Iraq into Iran. After Jean was contacted by Omar Bin Laden, the 4th born and well-loved son of his father, she wrote the story of Omar and his mother and their life with Osama Bin Laden, titled: Growing up Bin Laden, a critically acclaimed book. She later wrote For the Love of a Son, the true story of an Afghan woman who lost her young child to an abusive husband, and spent many long years searching for her son.

Jean returned to the topic of the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait with Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of war, rape, courage and survival, telling the painful story of a Lebanese visitor to Kuwait who was trapped in the country after the invasion. The woman was kidnapped and held in a special prison housing innocent women to be brutally raped.

Jean wrote and published a small tome, American Chick in Saudi Arabia, telling a few stories about her first two years in Saudi Arabia, in regard to the Saudi women she met. Jean plans on finishing this memoir for publication within the next two years.

Jean recently finished her 4th book on Princess Sultana, titled Princess: More Tears to Cry, to be published August 28, 2014.

The list of Jean's best-selling published books:

The Rape of Kuwait (1991)
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (1992, updated in 2013)
Princess Sultana's Daughters (This book is titled Daughters of Arabia in the UK.)
Princess Sultana's Circle (This book is titled Desert Royal in the UK.)
Ester's Child (2001) (To be released in an updated paperback copy in 2015.)
Mayada, Daughter of Iraq (2003)
Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan (2007)
Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's wife and son take us inside their secret world (2009)
For the Love of a Son: an Afghan woman's quest for her stolen child (2010)
American Chick in Saudi Arabia (A sample of her memoir not yet completed.)
Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage & Survival (2013)

Princess: More Tears to Cry (Release date: August 28, 2014)

With a solid background of first-hand experience and years of travel, research and writing, Jean Sasson has made many appearances on national and international television programs as well as having been featured in many international newspaper and magazine articles. She has a huge following of readers from countries all over the world, which is confirmed by the number of her readers and her enormous social media internet following.

Jean is also working on two other important projects, one a secret project, and the other which will be the completion of her memoir of spending so many years living and visiting in the Middle East. Her long-awaited memoir will reveal her many personal and compelling adventures in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.

website: www.jeansasson.com
Blog: http://jeansasson.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJeanSasson
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeansasson
ask/fm: http://ask.fm/jeansasson

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.

Here's a note from Author Jean Sasson:

First of all I would like to thank all of you who care about the books I write. So many of you take the time to write me a note and for that I am forever grateful. Your care about the women (and men) I write about means more to me than you will ever know.

So many people ask me: why do you 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 too often 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 there were large numbers of men who felt it their right to lash 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 helplessness 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

For additional information about Jean Sasson and her books, please visit, and on many of these sites, you can write to the author as she enjoys hearing from readers.

http://www.JeanSasson.com

http://jeansasson.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJeanSasson

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeansasson

ASK: http://ask.fm/jeansasson

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Customer Reviews

The book is very well written & I do highly recommend it.
Patricia Young-chou
Thank you Princess Sultana and Jean Sasson for this deep, eye-opening, lovely and exciting story.
Michelle R. Dellecave
This book really opens your eyes to the lives of women in Saudi Arabia.
musashiko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

226 of 234 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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103 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Fritz on May 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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130 of 137 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 2000
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 By J. Marren VINE VOICE on November 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
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.
Read more ›
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