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Girls of Riyadh Paperback – June 24, 2008
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Four upper-class Saudi Arabian women negotiate the clash between tradition and the encroaching West in this debut novel by 25-year-old Saudi Alsanea. Though timid by American chick lit standards, it was banned in Saudi Arabia for its scandalous portrayal of secular life. Framed as a series of e-mails sent to the e-subscribers of an Internet group, the story follows an unnamed narrator who recounts the misadventures of her best friends, Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem—all fashionable, educated, wealthy 20-somethings looking for true love. Their world is dominated by prayer, family loyalty and physical modesty, but the voracious consumption of luxury goods (designer name dropping is muted but present) and yearnings for female empowerment are also part of the package. Lines like the talk was as soft as the granules in my daily facial soap or Sadeem was feeling so sad that her chest was constricted in sorrow appear with woeful frequency, and the details about the roles of technology, beauty and Western pop culture in the lives of contemporary Saudi women aren't revelatory. Readers looking for quality Arabic fiction have much better options. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Four close girlfriends from upper-class Saudi families attend university and medical school in Riyadh and in Chicago and San Francisco. They talk in chat rooms, IM on their mobiles to their boyfriends and each other. But even with all the hip technology, they cannot escape deep-seated oppressive traditions after they return to Riyadh. Sadeem's fiancé dumps her after she has sex with him. Gamrah's husband divorces her after she discovers he is having an affair. Michelle and Faisal adore each other, but he gives her up when his family says so. The Religious Police arrest one couple in a coffee bar. But most families don't need official help to interfere in women's lives. Translated from the Arabic, this debut novel was immediately banned in Saudi Arabia. The 25-year-old Saudi writer (now studying in Chicago but planning to return home) tells it from the inside, complete with the contradictions and betrayals that define daily lfe. The Sex and the Citytype drama is fast, wry, witty, and anguished. And so are the politics: "He appreciates her independence. But can't find his." Rochman, Hazel --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Above all else, it’s important to preserve one’s reputation as a good girl, similar to India. Even after being legally engaged, some families only allow one “viewing” for the young couple to interact except on the phone, but some of the girls managed to sneak visits. Lamees, the only friend who happily marries her love, met him in one of the few places men and women are allowed to interact, in a hospital where they are medical students. The secret of her success is she plays hard to get, making a list of what she will not do such as be open about herself because “an open-book girl is no challenge.” Being “vague and mysterious” induces him to propose marriage. Marriage seems to be the young women’s main goal, with no interest in global issues like politics except for scandals. The narrator’s favorite show is Sex in the City. She does frequently quote the Koran, showing the importance of Islam in the characters’ daily lives. The novel shows the restraints on young men and women who find ways to connect electronically.
A book I couldn’t help but continuously read until every last word had been enjoyed. The people, the stories, the new understanding that comes from a new book is delightful throughout, ‘Girls of Riyadh.’
Set in both Saudi Arabia and the United States, at present day, so many intriguing and circling stories which just begin to touch the surface of what life may be like for a non-native English speaker, in America and the girls who grow up in Saudi Arabia.
With a soap opera air and young adult flair, Rajaa Alsanae keeps you interested and once you become comfortable in one story, she brings your attention back again with another drama. I had not heard of her e-mails and the controversy surrounding the gossip of Riyadh, but I am so glad I opened this book to find out. I am a big fan of journal keeping and journal reading. This book opened each chapter with what seemed like a confessional and I quite enjoyed that.
I have also found a new fondness for the poetry of Nizar Qabbani. Worthy of several mentions and footnotes, I grew to enjoy the author’s references sometimes more than the drama of Riyadh.
With this book I’ve discovered the difference of Saudi culture from other parts of the Arab world as well as the obvious notion that culture, what is expected of the individual and their families, their religion, their attire, are all separate, but also intertwined in a beautiful and unique way. Because of these interesting intersectionalities, I enjoyed this book very much.
This book was not originally published in the western world, but growing popularity in the Middle East created a hunger for the story in America. This book does an important job here in America, and that is to show how truly similar our day to day lives, love lives, school lives, and lives as women are related.
Several hypocrisy’s within Saudi culture, which affect these women profoundly and differently are expelled within these chapters. These seemingly elusive constraints and pressures, which are shown through Saudi women’s lives, certainly reflect on American women’s lives within our culture today. Certain expectations for women, for marriage, appearance, religion, and more, are echoed throughout the pages of ‘Girls of Riyadh.’
The stories and relationships in ‘Girls of Riyadh’ which tend to be seen as shallow or a bit silly and awkward, rather than momentous or serious, show us a side rarely discussed today- the women’s side. What it must be like, look like, feel like, to live in Riyadh, to be a woman in Saudi, to be a woman in Islam.
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