When author Sasson (Esther's Child; Princess Sultana's Circle; etc.) was assigned Mayada Al-Askari as a translator on a 1998 trip to Baghdad, she had no idea she would form a lasting friendship with this fluent English-speaker and member of a prominent Iraqi family. When Sasson returned to the United States, the two women wrote letters and telephoned each other weekly until, in 1999, Mayada was arrested by Saddam Hussein's secret police for allegedly printing anti-regime pamphlets in her Baghdad print shop and imprisoned for nearly a month in Iraq's brutal Baladiyat Prison. Sasson's candid, straightforward account of Mayada's time among the 17 "shadow women" crammed into Cell 52 gives readers a glimpse of the cruelty and hardship endured by generations of Iraqis. Mayada stares down this ugliness as soon as she's yanked from her meticulously run shop into the prison's interrogation room: "She saw chairs with bindings, tables stacked high with various instruments of torture.... But the most frightening pieces of... equipment were the various hooks that dangled from the ceiling. When Mayada glanced to the floor beneath those hooks, she saw splashes of fresh blood, which she supposed were left over from the torture sessions she had heard during the night." Sasson's graceful handling of such stomach-turning material, including an overview of Iraq's political and social turmoil, is a tribute to her friend, who escaped to Jordan with her children soon after her release from prison. Although Mayada's story has a happy ending, the unclear fates of her cell mates serve as a painful reminder of how many innocent lives were cut short by Hussein's regime.
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Sasson, author of Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (1992), first met Mayada in 1998. A year later, Mayada, granddaughter of a revered Iraqi hero who fought with Lawrence of Arabia, a former journalist, modern businesswoman, and the mother of two children, was arrested and imprisoned on allegations that her business was printing antigovernment flyers. Sasson relates Mayada's imprisonment with 17 "shadow women," similarly falsely accused and imprisoned and subjected to torture and cruelty under the regime of Saddam Hussein. To distract themselves, the women tell each other stories of their lives, and Mayada discloses her high-born, privileged lifestyle even though her family were not members of the leading Baath Party. She recalls her mother's acquaintance with Hussein's wife and their mutual dislike. Mayada also tells of interviews with the cruel and erratic Ali Hassan al-Majid, Hussein's cousin and the man who would become known as Chemical Ali. This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the cruelties suffered by the Iraqis under Hussein. Vanessa Bush
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This gave insight into what life was like under Hussein's reign of terror. We have no idea how lucky we are to be able to walk free and have an opinion and a voice on any topic we... Read morePublished 12 months ago by anniegale
I read this book in a few days. Very interesting but sometimes a painful read. Incredible how the people of Iraq suffered. Highly recommended.Published on Jan. 10 2011 by Deb & Noel
Jean Sasson has given a voice to one of the most oppressed groups in the world today - Arab women. First with Princess and now with Mayada. Read morePublished on July 6 2004
As a huge fan of Jean Sasson, I keenly anticipated the release of Mayada, Daughter of Iraq. It was definitely worth the wait. Read morePublished on June 4 2004 by mariya ali
MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ: ONE WOMEN'S SURVIVAL UNDER SADDAM HUSSEIN, is yet another page turner by Jean Sasson. Read morePublished on April 2 2004 by Blair Spurney-Rogers
Other reviews of this book may lead you to believe that it leans one way or the other on whether we should have gone to war with Iraq. Read morePublished on March 23 2004 by Beth
After reading the Princess Sultana Trilogy and developing a keen interest in the lives of Middle-Eastern women I knew I had to read Mayada's story. I could not put the book down. Read morePublished on March 7 2004 by Leah Christensen
Well written book that will keep you glued. Sasson documents, through Mayada, just how much evil man is capable of. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2004 by J. Rizzardi