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The Jewel of Medina

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The Jewel of Medina Cover

ISBN13: 9780825305184
ISBN10: 0825305187
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Born A'isha bint Abi Bakr in seventh century Arabia and married at the age of nine, she would become the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and one of the most revered women in the Muslim faith. The Jewel of Medina illuminates the difficult path A'isha confronted, from her youthful dreams of becoming a Bedouin warrior, to her life as the beloved wife and confident of the founder of Islam.

In an era when women had few rights of their own and were often treated as chattel, A'isha used her wits, her courage, and even her sword in a struggle to control her own destiny and carve out a place for herself in the umma, fighting religious persecution, jealous sister-wives, political rivals, and her own temptations. Her ingenuity and devotion would make her an indispensable advisor to Muhammad, earn her the coveted position of his favorite wife, and ultimately make her a fierce protector of his words and legacy.

Extensively researched and elegantly crafted, The Jewel of Medina presents the beauty and harsh realities of life in an age long past, during a time of war, enlightenment, and upheaval. At once a love story, a history lesson, and a coming-of-age tale, The Jewel of Medina provides humanizing glimpses into the origins of the Islamic faith, and the nature of love, through the eyes of a truly unforgettable heroine.

Review:

"Jones's controversial novel about A'isha bint Abi Bakr, the 'child-bride' and one of the favored wives of Muhammad, comes to light amidst a swirl of debate about free speech. As for the book itself, it's not bad for a first novel. It opens with a 14-year-old A'isha returning to Muhammad in the company of her first love. Fearing she'd been unfaithful, Mohammad sends her back to her parents while he debates her innocence. The novel then backtracks to A'isha's youth, where her strength of character and sharp wit quickly become apparent. When she's betrothed to Muhammad at age six, she's ordered confined to her house (to preserve her virginity) until her marriage three years later. She is forced to leave her beloved Mecca for Medina when it becomes unsafe for Muhammad and his followers, and as Muhammad-here depicted as caring, progressive and politically savvy-marries more women and early followers of Islam face political challenges and devastating battles, A'isha grows from a self-centered child to a worldly woman whose advice and counsel are a source of comfort and strength to Muhammad. The subject matter here is more spectacular than the writing, which tends toward the maudlin and purple. It's a page turner, but not outstanding." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Set in ancient Arabia during the dramatic birth of Islam, this captivating debut novel paints a fascinating portrait of A'isha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame great obstacles to reach her full potential as a woman and a leader.

Synopsis:

A'isha bint Abi Bakr is the daughter of a rich merchant from Mecca in the harsh, exotic world of seventh-century Arabia at the time of the foundation of Islam. When she is married to the Prophet Muhammad at the age of nine, she must rely on her wits, her courage, and even her sword in a struggle to control her own destiny and carve out a place for herself in the community, fighting religious persecution, jealous sister-wives, political rivals, and her own temptations. As she grows to love her kind, generous husband, her ingenuity and devotion make her an indispensable advisor to Muhammad. Ultimately, she becomes one of the most important women in Islam, and a fierce protector of her husband's words and legacy.Extensively researched, The Jewel of Medina evokes the beauty and harsh realities of life in an age long past. At once a love story, a history lesson, and a coming-of-age tale, it introduces readers to the turmoil that surrounded the birth of the Islamic faith through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine.

About the Author

A professional journalist since 1979, Sherry Jones has won numerous awards and been published in magazines including Newsweek, CMJ, Southwest Art, and Rider. She is currently the Montana and Idaho correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs, an international news agency in the Washington, D.C. area, and a correspondent for Women's e-News. The Jewel of Medina is her first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Sandy Lipovsky, February 12, 2009 (view all comments by Sandy Lipovsky)
I enjoyed Jewel of Medina. While I somewhat agree with earlier comments about the focus on romance, I disagree that it is inappropriate. The narrator is a very young girl who is married to a Prophet and her standing in the harim is critical to her well-being and happiness. Each time the Prophet takes a new wife, the child-bride sees it as a threat to his feeling for her, not for the political alliance that may have been formed because of the marriage. The perspective of the story is from a very young girl and follows her life into her late teen years.

The weaving of politics and religion, life in a harim, the politics of a community and a glimpse of life during the early days of Islam was vey good.
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readersrespite, November 25, 2008 (view all comments by readersrespite)
The Quick Synopsis:
The Jewel of Medina is a historical fiction novel about A'isha bint Abu Bakr, one of the Prophet Muhammad's numerous wives and, according to Muslim history, his favorite. The story is told in first person and covers A'isha's life from childhood to young adulthood (she was 18 years old when Muhammad died.)

The Tempest in a Teapot:
Much controversy has surrounded this debut novel from Sherry Jones. It was originally picked up by Random House in a two-book, $100,000 deal in 2007. Prior to scheduled publication in August of 2008, galleys were sent out and a subsequent firestorm erupted when a University of Texas Professor by the name of Denise Spellberg decided to warn Random House that the book could incite violence from radical Muslim groups, calling the book "an ugly, stupid piece of work" and "soft-core pornography."

Random House dropped the book like a hot potato. Some people screamed "censorship!". Others screamed "heresy!". The publishing world was in an uproar. Enter British publisher Gibson Square, who picked up the rights and published the book. A short time later, Gibson Square headquarters were set on fire in an apparently related arson case.

Long story short, Beaufort Books, a small American publishing house who apparently knows a cash-cow when they see one, picked up the rights here in the U.S. and that's how it ended up in my reading pile.

The Literary Criticism
While I wouldn't go so far as to call it "an ugly, stupid piece of work," as Ms. Spellberg did, it's not going to be nominated for any literary awards in the near future. I found the novel to be something of a missed opportunity. Jones writes the novel from A'isha's viewpoint, but rather than exploring the thoughts and actions of a 7th-century Middle Eastern girl caught up in the birth of a major new faith that will change the course of history, she instead gives us a fluffy historical romance novel.

Now there's nothing wrong with a good romance novel, in my elevated opinion. (The Thornbirds, anyone?) Unfortunately, The Jewel of Medina doesn't even make a good romance novel. Jones tries to use the ol' tried-n-true romance formula:

1. Girl yearns for freedom to be an independant, free spirit who transcends the gender limitations of her era.
2. Somewhere along the way she falls in love with the perfect man.
3. They clash.
4. They overcome the obstacle.
5. They live Happily Ever After.

The reason this formula works in a historical romance novel is because modern-day women identify with the protagonists goals, which are quite attainable in the 21st-century. But it is a formula and an overused one, at that.

The problem with this formula in The Jewel of Medina is that A'isha was but six years old when Muhammad asked for her hand in marriage and only nine years old when the marriage was consummated. By modern day standards this would be considered the rape of a child. Jones tries to gloss over this by delaying consummation of the marriage until A'isha is a teenager and at the same time presenting A'isha as much more mature than a child could possibly be. She is given thoughts and dialogue more consistent with a much older girl. Except she plays with toy horses. Alot. With Muhammad (which only makes him look creepier. I can see why this might offend some people.)

Jones never seems to reconcile exactly how she wants to paint the Prophet Muhammad. She seems to go out of her way to emphasize his compassion and enlightened (at least by 7th-century standards) views of women. Yet when it comes to his acquisition of wives, which was common for the time, she ends up giving us a lecherous old man. Perhaps a dichotomy was intended, but it only reads as inconsistency instead.

Similes abound and are so heavy that they sometimes illicit an unintended chuckle:

"That evening I stepped into the courtyard to see the moon. It dangled like an ornament from the bejeweled sky, dipped in gold and looming so close it beckoned my fingers to reach out and pluck it."

Dialogue doesn't fare much better. The act of sex is continually referred to as the "scorpion's sting." Ouch. I'll leave it at that.

I fully believe that Jones holds A'isha and the Prophet in the highest regard. She clearly had the best of intentions with this novel. But we all know what the road to heck is paved with, don't we? I was looking forward to a novel full of insight into the birth of Islam and the role the Prophet's wives played. I was looking for a glimpse into the mind and life of a Middle Eastern woman in 7th-century Saudi Arabia. I was looking for...something different than what I got, I suppose.

And for those Muslims who were so worried that us Westerners would believe such things about Muhammad? Give us a little credit, please.

The Recommendation:
If you want to weigh in on the controversy by all means go ahead and buy the book, just don't have high expectations for an enlightening, engaging read. Better yet, go buy a copy of The Thorn Birds.
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(7 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
Dinah, October 3, 2008 (view all comments by Dinah)
Some members of certain religious groups claim to be offended by this book. The British publisher got fire-bombed (no injuries). Random House U.S. chickened out of publishing it. Cheers to the Brit publ., and shame on Random. Good for Beaufort Books for taking it on. Quick, everyone hurry up and order it, it deserves your support.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780825305184
Author:
Jones, Sherry
Publisher:
Beaufort Books
Author:
Jones, Sherry
Subject:
History
Subject:
Islam
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
October 15, 2008
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
358
Dimensions:
9.22x6.32x1.24 in. 1.34 lbs.

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The Jewel of Medina Used Hardcover
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Product details 358 pages Beaufort Books - English 9780825305184 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Jones's controversial novel about A'isha bint Abi Bakr, the 'child-bride' and one of the favored wives of Muhammad, comes to light amidst a swirl of debate about free speech. As for the book itself, it's not bad for a first novel. It opens with a 14-year-old A'isha returning to Muhammad in the company of her first love. Fearing she'd been unfaithful, Mohammad sends her back to her parents while he debates her innocence. The novel then backtracks to A'isha's youth, where her strength of character and sharp wit quickly become apparent. When she's betrothed to Muhammad at age six, she's ordered confined to her house (to preserve her virginity) until her marriage three years later. She is forced to leave her beloved Mecca for Medina when it becomes unsafe for Muhammad and his followers, and as Muhammad-here depicted as caring, progressive and politically savvy-marries more women and early followers of Islam face political challenges and devastating battles, A'isha grows from a self-centered child to a worldly woman whose advice and counsel are a source of comfort and strength to Muhammad. The subject matter here is more spectacular than the writing, which tends toward the maudlin and purple. It's a page turner, but not outstanding." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , Set in ancient Arabia during the dramatic birth of Islam, this captivating debut novel paints a fascinating portrait of A'isha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame great obstacles to reach her full potential as a woman and a leader.
"Synopsis" by , A'isha bint Abi Bakr is the daughter of a rich merchant from Mecca in the harsh, exotic world of seventh-century Arabia at the time of the foundation of Islam. When she is married to the Prophet Muhammad at the age of nine, she must rely on her wits, her courage, and even her sword in a struggle to control her own destiny and carve out a place for herself in the community, fighting religious persecution, jealous sister-wives, political rivals, and her own temptations. As she grows to love her kind, generous husband, her ingenuity and devotion make her an indispensable advisor to Muhammad. Ultimately, she becomes one of the most important women in Islam, and a fierce protector of her husband's words and legacy.Extensively researched, The Jewel of Medina evokes the beauty and harsh realities of life in an age long past. At once a love story, a history lesson, and a coming-of-age tale, it introduces readers to the turmoil that surrounded the birth of the Islamic faith through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine.
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