Books By Jean Sasson

Reviews of Princess
People
"Absolutely riveting and profoundly sad..."
USA Today
"Must reading for anyone interested in human rights..."
Publisher's Weekly
"Another page turner"

Kirkus Reviews
"A fascinating look at the lifestyles of the rich and Saudi."

Oxford Review
Fascinating...one is compelled to read just one more page, one more chapter once one has started this Arabian nightmare.
     Book Jacket, Reviewed by Mahmoody, Betty

     "Anyone with the slightest interest in human rights will find this book heartwrenching. It is a well-written personal story that compels the reader to awareness of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and of the true role designated to women by men, even in wealthy families, in that country. The issues addressed by this admirably courageous woman stay with the reader long after the story is finished.

 Kirkus Review 

"A fascinating look at the lifestyles of the rich and Saudi"

500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith


While living in Saudi Arabia, Jean Sasson befriends a woman named Sultana. Sultana wants her life to be known and she gives Jean her diaries and notes, entrusting her to write her life story. Jean does, changing names and places for Sultana's protection. The result is a vivid depiction of the restrictions of Saudi Arabian society and the raw, corrupt, and unquestionable power of the royal males and religious leaders. Born into the royal family in 1956, the independent Sultana is the tenth daughter and the youngest of her mother's living children. By age fifteen, Sultana has seen her brother participate in the rape of an eight-year-old, brought her seventeen-year-old sister home after an attempted suicide because of her forced marriage to a sadistic fifty-three-year-old man, and buried her mother. Sultana marries, and at home she dresses as she pleases and voices her opinions about the inequities she lives, though usually her views are ignored. Outside her home she must cover herself completely in black and is expected to be subservient in every way. Talks with Marci, her Filipino maid since birth, expose Sultana to the countless wrongs suffered by foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Sultana's lifestyle - which includes four homes, shopping trips to Europe, and gardens in the desert - contrasts sharply with what she learns from Marci and causes her further anguish and anger. Princess is an intimate look at one woman's struggle against the injustices of an extremely repressive society.  

Denise Perry Donavin - BookList  


     Sasson was asked by a friend, a member of the Saudi royal family, to write this candid depiction of her life. Princess Sultana (a pseudonym, although how her identity can be kept secret when so many specific details of her life are spelled out is a mystery) is a woman who since birth has been surrounded by monumental wealth yet has lived under barbaric socioreligious constraints. Many have heard or read of the veils worn by Saudi women, their arranged marriages, and even their executions for moral missteps--such as being raped by family members. Sasson's first-person narrative puts the whole nightmarish experience into perspective. Sultana has divulged how her existence as a female was disdained from earliest childhood by her taunting brother and contemptuous father. She spells out the horror stories of her sister's forced marriage as the fourth wife of an abusive older man, of a friend's lifetime confinement in a dark attic room for falling in love with a westerner while studying in London, of her sister's maiming circumcision, and of countless other acts supposedly justified by religious tradition but actually intended to maintain male dominion over Saudi women. Throughout, the princess's feisty spirit is the book's saving feature. Her conniving and arrogant refusal to conform to this system are marvelous yet heart-breaking to behold. Human rights, not solely women's rights, are at issue here.

Hilary Mantel - The Times Literary Supplement  


The book has the flavour of stories told behind the hand, at ladies' parties. These stories are as reliable as anything can be, in a society where there is no free press and rumour is the only currency. Sasson omits--deliberately, I can only think--to show the complex, divided attitudes of women in Islam. Saudi women I met in my time in the Kingdom didn't believe Western women were getting a better deal. They thought they were martyrs, forced out to work,and made to work (without servants!) in the home. . . . Jean Sasson's professed wish that Princess 'will help dispel the many negative stereotypes' held ofthe Kingdom is a piece of hypocrisy to rival that of the pious Muslim males who cut a swathe through the brothels of Bangkok.

Library Journal  


     One must keep in mind the context of time and place when reading this emotional and exciting book to alleviate some of the horror of the injustices endured by the women described here. Equality of men and women has not worked out in any society, but the status of women in Islam is more problematic in that canon law is applied according to the social climate. Consequently, countries influenced by the West, such as Egypt, are more relaxed than countries like Saudi Arabia that are ruled by strict Hanbali law, which subjects women to unwelcome marriages, execution at whim, and the boredom of purdah . In this book, Sasson ( The Rape of Kuwait , Knightsbridge Pub. Co., 1991) tells the fascinating story of ``Sultana,'' an unidentified Saudi princess who yearns for recognition in her own right, not as an adjunct of men. For those who wish to know more, Soraya Altorki's Women in Saudi Arabia ( LJ 1/86) and Paryeen Shaukat Ali's Status of Women in the Muslim World (Aziz Pub., 1975. o.p.) are good. Recommended for popular collections. (Illustrations not seen.) Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.-- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville

Publisher's Weekly

 
     In this consistently gripping work, a Literary Guild alternate selection in cloth, the American-born Sasson recounts the life story of a Saudi princess she met while living in Saudi Arabia, offering a glimpse of the appalling conditions endured by even privileged women in the Middle East. Photos. (Sept.)
 

  

Booklist Magazine

     In a country where woman are still essentially bought or bartered, the princess (real name withheld) is justifiably fearful when the family realizes she is the subject of the 1992 expos{}e, Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. If this book has a thesis, it is a line the princess uses to describe the troubles her own daughters are going through as they try to assert themselves in the male-dominated society: "When normal is forbidden, people fall into the abnormal." With religious police watching over their morals, one wonders just how more "abnormal" these people and their country can be. The answer: quite a bit. This book, both fascinating and depressing, shows that women are much less than second-class citizens in Saudi society. Brian McCombie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Kirkus Reviews , July 1, 1992


    
Sasson (The Rape of Kuwait, 1991--not reviewed) brings us ``Sultana,'' a pseudonymous member of the Saudi royal family whose memoir documents the suffocating sexism that pervades Saudi life. From minute one, Sultana got the message that only men mattered. Her father had three wives in addition to her mother; her brother, Ali, had sovereignty over his ten sisters. Sultana, we learn, crafted constant rebellions, from smashing Ali's Rolex to leaving his pornographic slides--on which he'd printed his name--at the local mosque for the religious police to find. Arranged marriages were the norm: Sultana was lucky in being matched with a liberal, distant cousin (she was also lucky in being spared the common practice of ritual genital mutilation). She had children, battled her husband, and was thrilled during the Gulf War by reports of the 47 Saudi women who bucked the law and drove in the streets of Riyadh (although rumors persist that one of the group was put to death by her father). But Sasson's device of telling Sultana's story in the first person trivializes the princess's important material. Her voice echoes that of a pulp-fiction heroine (``I was drowning in Kareem's eyes...''), and the endless vignettes of her feistiness--especially the incident of her brother's pornography--verge on incredible. But when Sultana stops talking about herself and takes time to observe, we get amazing details: of Saudi wealth (British interior decorators were imported to redo Sultana's suite on the maternity ward), and of cultural brutality (one friend, caught propositioning foreigners, was drowned by her father in the family swimming pool; another, in punishment for having an affair with a Westerner, was confined to a darkened room for life). Worth paging past the trivial, then, to absorb a chilling and enraging portrait of women's absolute powerlessness in Saudi society. (Fifteen b&w photos, maps--not seen.) -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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