- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press (HC); 1 edition (July 10 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594201218
- ISBN-13: 978-1594201219
- Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.7 x 23.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,112,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Girls Of Riyadh Hardcover – Jul 5 2007
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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.
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, HazelSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
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The book was originally an online blog, which got a lot of attention from the Saudi Internet users. I think the website was even blocked a few times from the public because the government didn't want Saudi's to be reading such x-rated stuff.
It was really interesting to see how these girls are freely operating and what they do to gain freedom in a society where women lack "freedom".
If you are looking for a fast read which gives you the ability to understand the struggle of a "certain" social group within Saudi society, this is definitely the book to go to.
That being said, I would like to point out that the girls represented within the novel do not reflect the general population of Saudi Arabia. After reading this book, I assume that many readers will make generalizations about Saudi society, however, I urge the readers not to make such generalizations since its not a true representation of Saudi girls and society.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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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The book is not the best example of Arabic literature, perhaps, but it is a very readable story about the mine field that young Saudis--men as well as women--must negotiate if they are to be considered part of Saudi society. None is a particular hell-raiser; all want to conform and be accepted. But life has a way of making dreams come not-quite-true, as in all cultures.
If you're looking for titillating sex scenes, don't bother looking in this book. While sex--both hetero- an homosexual--makes an appearance, it is as chaste as in a Jane Austen novel.
I do recommend the book for those who would try to understand how Saudi culture and society put limits on the acceptable and the way young Saudis try to navigate those currents while heading for their own fulfillment.
Its a very easy read, and a combo of Gossip Girl meets the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but in Saudi Arabia to sum it up for you.