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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: exlibrary softcover book, usual library markings. and stickers has some reader wear,
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Rughum & Najda Paperback – March 25, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Samar Habib is a scholar of Arab history and civilization, with particular focus on homosexual women in the Middle Ages and antiquity. RUGHUM & NAJDA is her second novel. She lives in California.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oracle Releasing (March 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983716110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983716112
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,935,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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I desperately, desperately wanted to love this novel. Unfortunately, it fought me every step of the way.

Habib is a scholar of the history of sexuality, and particularly female same-sex desire, as reflected in medieval Arabic texts. This novel grew out of that research and weaves a complex portrait of the lives of several women recorded in 9th century Baghdad, at a time when it was possible--if not at all easy--for women who loved each other to make a place for themselves, sometimes in private but sometimes as public figures.

Habib’s research and scholarship is reflected in every paragraph, giving the women’s stories a solid grounding in the historic context and the social realities of the time. The story takes the scant and discontinuous facts and stitches them together into a complete fabric, filled in with plausibilities. We follow Rughum and Najda, the title characters, coming from very different social backgrounds but bound by mutual attraction. We see into the life of the poet Bathal who dared to sing in praise of the love of women in front of the Caliph. We learn of the shadowy world of the tharifas, the “witty women” who found each other in the face of their restricted lives and forbidden passions. And we are introduced in passing to the many scholars and authors whose observations and opinions left the evidence of these women’s lives for us to enjoy. We are treated to flights of language that are often lyrical, drawing on the rhythms and imagery of medieval Arabic love poetry.

What we don’t have, unfortunately, is a coherent novel. The text is fatally uncertain whether it wants to be a fictionalized history or historic fiction and falls, in the end, somewhat awkwardly into the former camp.
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Format: Paperback
At first I was hesitant. How could both history and queer politics meet on the carpet of the Arab world and survive? But like with all magic, once I step gingerly upon the carpet it flew--and me with it--to the far ends of the earth and then safely back again. No really, I could not expect so much to transpire between two covers of a single book.

I knew it was a love story but never are we subject to any cliches-NEVER! The characters are real, dynamic, embrace tragedy, intrigue and complex destinies, all the while, foods, flavors, smells and images rush past as the carpet flies on through multiple worlds to unveil their story. Yes, unveil but not in any voyeuristic way. Their story is heart-felt, complex and yet accessible. You will find yourself rooting for the safety integrity and love of the characters as they embrace what is their locations in life and engage with others whose destinies change and some times change back again.

There is style rhythm and poise in the writing and wisdom, love and honor in the story line. I am already recommending it to my friends.

One favorite part was that the tharifat met in the cemetery. I have seen whole communities in the city of the dead in Cairo, Egypt, so I knew how even this worked in the real world. How can women find time for themselves in a culture and context that puts severe restraints on them?

I also like when one character not only dresses as a man to gain access and mobility, but excelled at the task she performed as scribe in the courts.
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Format: Paperback
No other novel set in the Abbasid Caliphate era is as entertaining and enlightening as Samar Habib's Rughum & Najda. More than a beautiful love story between two Baghdadi women, the novel takes us on a historical journey as mores, fashions and even obscure religions are intricately woven into a period often referred to as the "Golden Islamic Age." Habib's attention to detail is a joy, so is her flowing style that leaves the reader in a state of enjoyable suspense throughout the book. Some traditions are sourced to such an extent as to delight the intrepid historian in exquisite moments of discovery and recognition for Habib does not shy away from footnoting at every necessary turn.

Perhaps what intrigued me the most is the dynamic nature of the relationships between not only the two main characters but also between a number of female characters of all classes and occupations: slaves, scribes, Quranic verse reciters, singers, and of course ladies of the house. The ahistorical dimension of love as characters evolve in search of happiness brings home the familiar as well as the peculiar all set in the realm of fantasy ... or is it? Falling in love is never left to its own devices. Having thoroughly researched that period, Habib meticulously leads us by the hand through the tumultuous terrain of yearning, lust, ecstasy, betrayal, jealousy and generosity of spirit without neglecting the boundaries of class, gender and of course sexuality.

In short, prohibitions interlaced with sanctioned segregation in an array of whimsical and yet heart-warming story telling has kept me avidly turning the pages only to wish for the book to never end.

I thoroughly recommend this book: a sheer delight.
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