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Sand Queen Hardcover – August 2, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This is 'The Things They Carried' for women in Iraq...feels right and true." -- Boston Globe

Praise for Sand Queen

“This is The Things They Carried for women in Iraq . . . feels right and true.”
Boston Globe

"Benedict interviewed around 40 female veterans of the war in Iraq to tell this completely heartbreaking, vivid story of the particular difficulties of being not just a soldier, but a female soldier."

“[A] thrilling and thoughtful new novel . . . [Kate] is a character readers won't soon forget.”
Publishers Weekly

“Funny, shocking, painful, and, at times, deeply disturbing, Sand Queen takes readers beyond the news and onto the battlefield.”

“This bleak novel explores the horrendous impact of the Iraq war on women, both soldiers and civilians . . . [an] unforgettable testament.”
Kirkus Reviews

“An eye-opening glimpse into a life that many Americans have never seen.”
Library Journal

“Told in compellingly vivid detail with the clear ring of truth every step of the way.”
Free-Lance Star

“If you missed out on serving in the Iraq War, you can, if you're willing, be catapulted right into the midst of some of its more challenging moments courtesy of Ms. Benedict's gutsy prose. Her interviews with over 40 female veterans show up as action flow and dialogue in Sand Queen, a novel that will leave you deeply unsettled if not shaken to the root of your being.”
The Herald-Dispatch

"Every war eventually yields works of art which transcend politics and history and illuminate our shared humanity. Helen Benedict’s brilliant new novel has done just that with this century’s American war in Iraq. Sand Queen is an important book by one our finest literary artists."
—Robert Olen Butler 

“Helen Benedict’s compelling story provides an intimate picture of what it means to be a soldier, what it’s like to live on the battlefield, and what the ethical choices are that our troops have had to make in Iraq. Benedict tells her story from two perspectives—that of a young American woman—a soldier—and a young Iraqi woman—a medical student—both of whose worlds are ravaged by the war. At times funny, at times grimly painful, Sand Queen offers a new chapter in contemporary American history.”
—Roxana Robinson, author of Cost and Sweetwater

"Every American who claims to value the lives of our soldiers should read this powerful, harrowing, and revelatory novel."
—Valerie Martin, author of Trespass

“Ms. Benedict pulls off this audacious gambit because she is an exceptional writer and storyteller. Her gritty depiction of a soldier’s life in the Iraq desert is particularly well done. Sand Queen is powerful precisely because Helen Benedict is so pissed off.”
New York Journal of Books

“A convincing and affecting portrait of two resilient young women caught up in war.”
Shelf Awareness

“In writing what might be the first major woman’s war story and alternating points of view between opposing sides, Columbia professor Helen Benedict has created something enormously fresh and immediate on this sadly ancient topic.”—Chronogram.com

Praise for the work of Helen Benedict

"A stunning chronicle of abuses suffered by women enlisted in the U.S. Army and serving in Iraq."
Los Angeles Times

“Benedict, an author of both fiction and nonfiction (Sailor’s Wife; Virgin or Vamp), offers distinctive cross-cultural insights as well as a cadre of satiric and fascinating characters, and the result is a story that is both touching and humorous. Highly recommended.”Library Journal
“Benedict offers an engaging, lush portrait of envy, desire, and the insatiable lure of the exotic and unknown.”
“An armchair traveler’s delight, Benedict’s novel is an amusingly poignant look at the British abroad in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh.”
Publishers Weekly

“A comedy of bad manners reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh.”
New York Daily News

“Benedict has written a novel lush with exoticism yet rooted, finally, in the common experience of what it is to love.”
Women’s Review of Books

“[The Edge of Eden] reads as though it could have been written in the early 20th century, right alongside of the work of Evelyn Waugh and W. Somerset Maugham . . . [a] dangerous, mesmerizing tale.”
Cleveland Plain-Dealer

"The Lonely Soldier is an important book, a crucial accounting of the shameful war on women who gave their bodies, lives and souls for their country.”
─Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues

"A beautifully written novel by a most entertaining and accomplished writer . . . compelling, intelligent, insightful."
—Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

About the Author

Helen Benedict, a Columbia University professor, has written four previous novels, five nonfiction books, and a play. Her novels have received citations for best book of the year from the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago and New York Public Libraries.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; No Edition Stated edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569479666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569479667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I teach at a small, rural community college in southwestern New York. It's a job that provides me with an opportunity to meet and learn from quite a few veterans of our Middle Eastern wars. I just finished a summer course that included five vets in a class of twenty, two of whom were female. When I ask my female students who have served overseas about gender issues in the military during war, I hear the same story, one detailing a systematic, relentless, pattern of harassment. (And I hear this only when I ask; otherwise, these students are typically silent on the issue.) These young women are often subject to combat situations, without the official recognition or public awareness that they are; they are in many ways not fully accepted into our male dominated military, without adequate official recognition or public understanding that this is so; they are routinely burdened by degrading gender-based stereotypes and are too frequently threatened or actually assaulted, without any just recourse; upon return to civilian life, they are seldom treated to the token "thank you for your service" greeting from fellow citizens (one given countless times to our male veterans) who are unable to perceive them as warriors; when they break down, they are less likely to be understood and, when they are treated, are subject to relatively unhelpful care modalities that were developed for males.
For several years now I've wondered how and if any of this will change. I've assumed that for it to, the men who control our military institution will have to want that change, and that our public will have to encourage them to want it. My optimism that this transformation is possible has been bolstered by Helen Benedict's Sand Queen.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on hours of research and interviews with the people who personally experienced combat in Iraq, Helen Benedict has written an intelligent and thought provoking commentary on the reality of war. Told by two young women, Army Specialist Kate Brady who guards detainees and Naema, a young Iraqi woman seeking information about her imprisoned father and little brother, the short and long term costs of war become clear. Both of them are idealistic, decent, hopeful, stubborn and intent on doing something positive with their lives but quickly are overwhelmed by the weight of military occupation . There are no winners in the story, just as there are no real winners in war.....only the corpses of the dead and the living dead for whom life will never be the same. There is no justification for terrorism , human debasement, violence or vengeance regardless of who is dishing it out and no amount of spin will change this truth. We are quick to be critical of the treatment of Iraqi women while giving tacit approval to the abuse of women soldiers. Too often we are ignorant about or choose to ignore the fact that our military intervention and presence destroys rather than wins the minds and hearts of the people on both sides of the conflict. Benedict invites us to honestly confront these and other critical issues in this well written novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen Benedict's fictional portrait of female soldiers during the Iraq war is based on her research for The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, which focuses on the true stories of five female soldiers.

This story, "Sand Queen" revolves around two young women caught up in the Iraq war. Specialist Kate Brady, 19, is a guard at a makeshift prison camp in the desert near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq during the early months of the war. Naema Jassim, 22, is a medical student and war refugee. She and her family fled their upper middle class lives in Baghdad to live with her grandmother in Umm Qasr. But soon after their arrival her father and younger brother were arrested and sent to the prison camp.

The two women meet only a few times at the prison camp when Naema comes to find out information on her father and brother. It is that connection that sets up an interesting juxtaposition of their lives in the midst of a hideous war. Kate comes from a Christian fundamentalist family background and is flung into a hellish life complicated by constant harassment and abuse by fellow soldiers and prison inmates. She is every bit as much a prisoner as the Iraqi men behind the concertina wire. Naema, on the other hand, comes from a family who values education above all else, even religion. The war has destroyed everything in her life and made her a prisoner of circumstances. How each woman struggles to cope with brutality, devastation, and loss is a captivating study in human nature. Although one can't help but think under different circumstances - as in not war - these two "enemies" could have been friends.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think it's really importent to be shown the negative side of war- really easy to swallow the hype of the neo-cons who generally never served yet have never seen a war they didn't like, at least from a distance. That being said, although there were things I liked about this novel I found the characters rather one-dimensional and lacking in any kind of character development. Plot elements relied strongly on coincidence. Love interests were written in the adolescent soap opera vein. The primary male heroic {?} figure seems to me just a slicked up sleazy version of the bulk of the male soldiers, which, if I thought it was intentional I would appreciate much more.
What I liked about this story was the way the perspective of the Iraquis was presented. I liked the interplay between the two story lines. I was surprised the ending worked well, for me at least.
Having served in Nam, I know a bit about serving in war. That politically correct term "warrior" never occured to any of us as far as I know- we were just kids counting the days. The Iraqui invasion had to be worse than what we faced. Extended deployments. Uncertainty of who the bad guys were. The lack of preparation before we were sent in. Having women serving along side men- which I support- providing a whole different dynamic. These are importent things, and should have been fleshed out more in this novel. That being said, the author did at least provide a taste of Iraq which was more satisfying than the bunk we are usually asked to swallow.
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