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Description of content and themes of the Princess Trilogy 

The reaction to the presence of the female Allied soldiers in the Persian Gulf war brought worldwide attention to the lowly status of women in Arabia. Incredibly, the Saudis imposed their restrictions of Muslim women on their non-Muslim women defenders, as well. Public debate on the irony of liberated, democratic men and women defending a government that espoused such restrictions for women caused widespread consternation and commentary. Around the world, the idea begin to form that one positive result of the war would be the loosening of the social customs that keeps Saudi Arabian women relegated to the dark ages. Sadly, this anticipated change did not happen. In the aftermath of the war, because of tightened restrictions on women imposed by the now more powerful religious men, the plight of these women actually worsened. 

One Saudi woman who watched this turn of events with great disappointment was a fiery Saudi Princess, a member of the House of Al Saud, the current rulers of Saudi Arabia. This Princess resolved, upon seeing the restrictions on women tighten, rather than loosen, that she would take an unprecedented and dangerous action: she would once again prevail upon a longtime American friend and writer to describe to the West, as she had experienced it, the everyday life of oppression for Muslim women, whether royal princesses or village tribes women. The author's sources were the true incidents in the Princess own life, beginning with her childhood, through her marriage, motherhood and her adult coming of age right up and through the Gulf war to the present day. In the process of recording Sultana's life, the Princess Trilogy also recounts the lives of other women around her: her mother, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, women servants, as well as the lives of other significant women who she seeks out or meets by chance. Since there was personal danger in revealing the secrets of the women of Saudi Arabia to the West, for the personal safety of the Princess, the author called her "Sultana." 

While recording the lives of Saudi women, the books, by necessity, recorded the lives of Saudi men. The author, in the telling of these true stories, describes how the beliefs and attitudes of both sexes are shaped and continue to be shaped by a social culture dating back many centuries. The books portray the relationships of Saudi men including the Princess' father, brother, husband, brother-in-laws, uncles and cousins in their intimate, highly charged, emotional encounters with the women of their families, as well as with women of other cultures. 

From the author's lively description of this diverse cast of characters, both male and female, the reader gets a picture of what it is like to live today, in the ultra-modern Saudi country whose culture is still steeped in ancient customs. The veil is lifted and western stereotypes are destroyed as readers follow the lives of Sultana and those of her family members inside their own homes, without the covering of veils or the artificiality of the public ceremony with outsiders. Authentic details, from the description of Middle eastern clothing, to the expenditure of their fabulous wealth on desert palaces, to the lavish entertainment and the extensive travels of the Royal Family, to the strictness of the religious and social customs that regulate their lives, are revealed as viewed through the author's description of the lively character of Sultana. 

The most startling revelation of all, however, is that the lives of the women in the fabulously wealthy House of Al Saud, even royal princesses, are repressed and constricted. Under the strict Saudi interpretation of the laws of the Koran, Muslim women, whatever their station in life, are punished and penalized for any supposed violation of a man's family honor. Similar behavior by Muslim men, however is ignored. What is most moving about this book is the fact that in the end, after we come to know the fiery spirit of Sultana, from early days as the baby of the family to the time she herself is the mother of veiled daughters, we are saddened along with her that although her individual efforts have made a difference to various individual women, in reality Sultana has brought no changes to her repressive society. As a Muslim woman, she still has little influence. We readers, however, are inspired by the glow of her interior life and her fierce challenge to injustice wherever she sees it. Sultana will never accept her male-dominated world. The example of her spirit motivates all who read the books in this dramatic trilogy to join Sultana in the continuing struggle to ensure that every women in the world is treated with dignity and respect.

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