Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson completes the
compelling trilogy of the women of Saudi Arabia.
her earlier nonfiction bestsellers,
Princess & Princess
Sultana’s Daughters, Jean Sasson helped create a new genre that
has stirred widespread interest in the plight of oppressed women of Saudi
Arabia. Telling the true
story of “Sultana,” a pseudonymous member of the Saudi royal family,
Sasson described a society in which women are second class citizens with
few rights, without control over their own lives, and who are subject to
harsh punishment, for the slightest transgressions.
Exposing what Sasson calls “one of the most backward and cruelest
social systems in the world for women,” the books remain best sellers
with women of every age and nationality. These books have caught the attention of educators who used
them as part of their reading curriculum.
These books are also some of the most popular for women’s reading
Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson and Princess
Sultana continue to expose the primitive cultural traditions that relegate
the women of Saudi Arabia to near-slave status.
Portraying Sultana’s great courage in risking all that she has in
the quest to effect change, the final book in the Princess trilogy centers
on her crisis of confidence and ultimate triumph as she stands up to the
seemingly unassailable power of Saudi Arabian men.
With Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson brings
Sultana’s story to a satisfying close, leaving readers with a sense of
hope about the future of Saudi women.
Princess Sultana’s Circle opens with Sultana questioning
her ability to improve the lives of women in her homeland.
As her wealth and possessions have increased, Sultana’s happiness
and contentment have decreased, undermining her aspirations to assist
helpless women. When her
niece is forced into an arranged marriage with a cruel, depraved older
man, Sultana’s attempts to intervene fail, intensifying her sense of
frustrated and depressed, she secretly begins to drink.
Imbibing alcohol is dangerous in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal
and also a sin for which she could be divorced by her husband and shunned
by her family.
Soon after, while visiting the lavish home of a royal cousin, Sultana and
her two daughters make a horrifying discovery—their relative is keeping
a harem of sex slaves in one of the pavilions on his vast estate.
Mostly Asian and quite young, the imprisoned girls tell horror stories of
having been bought by their
current master from their families or at public auction.
Unable to rescue them because, in Saudi Arabia, there are no legal
means available to free these women, Sultana blames herself for not being
able to do more. A trip to
New York, meant to revive her spirits, only serves to glaringly highlight
the simple freedoms that Saudi women lack, from driving a car to wearing
regular clothes in public.
rebellious daughters are also providing her with daily challenges. Amani,
her younger child, still caught up in Islamic zeal, may be a member of a
banned political group of Middle Eastern dissidents who oppose the Saudi
royal family. Her older
daughter, Maha, continues to chafe against Saudi cultural restrictions and
the roving “morals police.” Their
contrasting views on Muslim womanhood provide a fascinating glimpse into
the larger internal conflicts currently confronting their country.
with her husband’s help, Sultana is able to confront her drinking
problem. This, along with
several other events, gives Sultana a fresh perspective.
Breaking free of her apathy, she returns to her life-long goal of
raising the status of women in Saudi Arabia.
However, Sultana’s renewed sense of purpose is quickly tested
when her nephews are caught committing an unspeakable act against a
14-year-old girl, who had been expressly purchased for sex.
Galvanized into action, Sultana risks her personal status and
wealth to take a stand against the complacency of her male relatives over
the child’s fate. Ultimately,
Sultana and her sisters vow to form a circle of support that will surround
and shelter abused women and girls.
and deeply personal,
Princess Sultana’s Circle depicts one woman’s heroic
struggle to make a difference in a culture where change in regard to women’s
rights is painstakingly slow.
All who read this story are certain to be moved to action by its
heartfelt message: to join
Princess Sultana’s symbolic circle of protection and work together to
secure justice and equality for women everywhere.