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Girls of Riyadh

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Girls of Riyadh Cover

ISBN13: 9780143113478
ISBN10: 014311347x
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A bold new voice from Saudi Arabia spins a fascinating tale of four young women attempting to navigate the narrow straits between love, desire, fulfillment, and Islamic tradition.

In her debut novel Rajaa Alsanea reveals the social, romantic, and sexual tribulations of four young women from the elite classes of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Originally released in Arabic in 2005, it was immediately banned in Saudi Arabia because of the controversial and inflammatory content, while black-market copies of the novel were widely circulated. The daring originality of Girls of Riyadh continues to create a firestorm all over the Arab world, and the excitement has spread far beyond the Middle East — to date, rights to this novel have already been sold in eleven countries.

The novel unfolds as every week after Friday prayers, the anonymous narrator sends an e-mail to the female subscribers of her online chat group. In fifty such e-mails over the course of a year, we witness the tragicomic reality of four university students — Qamra, Michelle, Sadim, and Lamis — negotiating their love lives, their professional success, and their rebellions, large and small, against their cultural traditions. The world these women inhabit is a modern one that contains Sex and the City, dating, and sneaking out of their parents' houses, and this affluent, contemporary existence causes the girls to collide endlessly with the ancient customs of their society.

The never-ending cultural conflicts underscore the tumult of being an educated modern woman growing up in the twenty-first century amid a culture firmly rooted in an ancient way of life. While this novel offers a distinctly Arab voice, it also represents the mongrel culture and language of a globalized world, reflecting the way in which the Arab world is being changed by new economic and political realities. Riyadh is the larger setting of the novel, but the characters travel all over the world shedding traditional garb as they literally and figuratively cross over into Western society. These women understand the Western worldview and experiment with reconciling pieces of it with their own. But this groundbreaking novel might be the very first that opens up their world to us-their culture, their struggles, their frustrations, their hopes, and their beliefs.

With Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea gives us a rare and unforgettable insight into the complicated lives of these young Saudi women whose amazing stories are unfolding in a culture so very different from our own.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[The] work of a brave, intelligent young woman. One of those rare books with the power to shake up an entrenched society." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"A rare glimpse into ordinary life for young women in Saudi Arabia." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Engaging, enlightening, enjoyable." Seattle Times

Review:

"[M]ovingly illustrates the shackled lives of young, lovelorn women in Saudi Arabia." St. Petersburg Times

Synopsis:

When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsaneas tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.

About the Author

Rajaa Alsanea grew up in Riyadh, the daughter of a family of doctors. She intends to return to Saudi Arabia after attaining a degree in Endodontics. Two weeks after the release of Girls of Riyadh in Arabic, the book became a #1 bestseller. Rajaa is twenty-six years- old, and this is her first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Marie Franzosa, August 9, 2012 (view all comments by Marie Franzosa)
Written in the format of a weekly email (more like a blog post, really)sent to a large list, this book tells us the stories of four upper class young women in Saudi Arabia. The focus is on the close friends as they struggle through the complications of love, professional goals and arranged marriages in this repressive society. The reader is given an unusual opportunity to appreciate these struggles from a different point of view.
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Shoshana, October 5, 2008 (view all comments by Shoshana)
Two stars only for context, not for substance or style. Touted as a breakthrough, this epistolary novel needs to be understood in its cultural context in order to be something other than not-very-engaging chick lit. Within that cultural context, this novel-in-one-sided-e-mails is discrepant, jarring, and revolutionary (at least within the domestic sphere of the rich). However, even from this perspective, I had trouble with what felt like a self-conscious effort to mimic "Sex in the City." The characters' cattiness and meanspirited comments about other women's looks didn't make me like or respect them. Unlike the real women of RAWA and other revolutionaries, these self-preoccupied characters inspire no admiration. While the premise could work, the book suffers from telling, not showing, and is more like a gloss of the story than the story itself. The narrative itself just dribbles away and does not actually follow through on some of the promises the narrator makes to the reader-as-e-mail-recipient. It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't stand as a work of literature without its political and historical frame. This is not your mother's feminism, and not in a good way.
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(5 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)
Alicia116, August 10, 2008 (view all comments by Alicia116)
Groundbreaking book (for Saudi Arabians) on the dating and mating habits of four Riayadhian gals (a la "Sex and the City") with their daring, courage, and limits imposed by religious law and culture.

One wonders how Rajaa Alsanea (unlike Candace Bushnell) managed to tell her (email) tales and still lives?!

Episodic (each chapter generally seems to focus on the adventures, finesse and foibles of one of the foursome), and soap-operaish, this is a book that would seem to have mini-series potential in the right hands (maybe even in Riyadh...).

Hard to put down, it kept me up late at night as I suspect the author's emails did the same for her.

Kudos for a courageous, well, written, humorous and societally conscious book (with the potential to be an anthopological source for Saudi society, much as Bushnell's book is for American) that all, but especially women, will enjoy.

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(2 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780143113478
Author:
Alsanea, Rajaa
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Translator:
Booth, Marilyn
Author:
Booth, Marilyn
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Young women
Subject:
Saudi arabia
Subject:
Epistolary fiction
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20080731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.38x5.46x.64 in. .56 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Girls of Riyadh Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Penguin Books - English 9780143113478 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[The] work of a brave, intelligent young woman. One of those rare books with the power to shake up an entrenched society."
"Review" by , "A rare glimpse into ordinary life for young women in Saudi Arabia."
"Review" by , "Engaging, enlightening, enjoyable."
"Review" by , "[M]ovingly illustrates the shackled lives of young, lovelorn women in Saudi Arabia."
"Synopsis" by ,
When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsaneas tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.
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