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Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  3,106 Ratings  ·  375 Reviews
”I was born in a harem in 1940 in Fez, Morocco...” So begins Fatima Mernissi in this exotic and rich narrative of a childhood behind the iron gates of a domestic harem. In Dreams of Trespass, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surrounded her in the courtyard of her youth—women who, deprived of access to the world outside, recreat ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published September 4th 1995 by Basic Books (first published 1994)
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Petra Eggs
Original review I bought this book as brand new. It looks brand new. It feels brand new. There is masses of underlining inside. The seller should be locked up and flogged on the soles of their feet.

'Proper' review (see comment 5) The book was pretty good, very informative about the goings on in a harem. The machinations and manipulations of the women to get what they want which they often do, except freedom. They are caged birds who sing on demand and are there to be petted and admired and fed d
Feb 14, 2016 Rowena rated it it was amazing
“When you happen to be trapped powerless behind walls, stuck in a dead-end harem, you dream of escape. And magic flourishes when you spell out that dream and make the frontiers vanish. Dreams can change your life, and eventually the world. Liberation starts with images dancing in your little head, and you translate those images in words. And words cost nothing!”- Fatima Mernissi,Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

I just recently came across Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mern
Aug 10, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Despite its appearance on every reading list related to Morocco, I’d resisted reading Mernissi’s recent recounting of growing up in Fez in the 1940s and ’50s. “A harem girlhood?” Exotic and titillating, I thought, but not likely a typical upbringing. Now that I’ve read this fascinating memoir, I realize that the western stereotype of “harem” – dancing girls who take turns pleasing a wealthy sultan – hardly matches the reality. In fact, Mernissi notes, the everyday domestic harem involves housing ...more
Feb 09, 2010 DoctorM rated it it was amazing
A lovely book on multiple levels. Mernissi's account of a girlhood in an upper-middle class family in Fez in the 1940s is both a luminous and gently affectionate memoir and a penetrating look at the idea of the harem, of a separate women's world within the household. Mernissi is very clear: the harems of her youth were not the lascivious fantasy-lands of the Arabian Nights or Orientalist painting, but communal spaces where the women of the household lived behind a "sacred boundary", where they l ...more
May 31, 2012 Jad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
اقرأ هذه الرواية، ثم شاهد فيلم "عصفور السطح" التونسي
Ameera H.  Al-mousa
Nov 18, 2009 Ameera H. Al-mousa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
ولدت فاطمة في حريم فاس المدينة المغربية التي تقع على بعد خمسة آلاف كلم غرب مكة وألف كلم جنوب مدريد ,إحدى عواصم النصارى القساة ,مشاكلتهم مع النصارى كما يقول والدها وكما هو الشأن مع النساء حين لا تحترم الحدود ,وقد ولدت في فترة فوضى عارضة إذ أن النساء والنصارى كانو يحتجون على الحدود ويخرقونها باستمرار

على باب حريمها ذاته ,كانت النساء يُهاجمن " أحمد" البواب ويضايقنه باستمرار وكانت الجيوش الأجنبية تتوافق مجتازة حدود الشمال

يقول والدها بأن الله خلق الأرض وما عليها فصل بين النساء والرجال وشق بحرا بكامل
I read this after reading Scheherazade Goes West - which expands on the differences shown here.

This is actually a wonderful book about Mernissi's childhood in a harem and a comparison of that harem with that of her grandmother. Instead of telling, Mernissi shows you the different lives of the women in each harem, and deepens the understanding or view of it.

You find yourself caught in the struggles of the women - in particular Chama and Mernissi's own mother.

And the ending phrase, is something e
Mar 24, 2014 Quo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood is a coming of age story, set in Morocco during WWII, an account of Yasmina's attempt to decipher the cloistered world within and the greater world beyond the family home in Fez. The book almost seems a cross between an autobiography and an ethnographic study of French Colonial Morocco, just as the stirrings of an independence movement are in the air. It can't really be compared to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank but there are certain similar ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Nawal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un livre intéressant, bien loin de ce que nous pouvons imaginer d'un vrai harem, sans fioriture ni drame. Dans ce beau récit enchanteur de mille et une nuits à la marocaine, Fatima Mernissi nous fait voyager dans un vrai harem de Fès, au cours des années 40, tout en essayant d'attribuer une définition au mot harem.

La petite Fatima de 9 ans nous raconte "tout en posant des questions assez simples mais vraiment cocasses" la vie quotidienne de femmes étouffées dans un carcan de traditions obsolète
César Lasso
Apr 05, 2012 César Lasso rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unas memorias literarias de la infancia de Fatema Mernissi en uno de los últimos harenes tradicionales de Fez, allá por los años 40 y 50 del siglo pasado. Hay mucho de recreación literaria, filosófica y antropológica, por lo que no sabemos bien cuánto fue real.

Cuando lo leí, disfruté muchísimo con las alegorías que contiene el libro y las referencias a la Sherezade de las Mil y una noches. Y al terminar la lectura, sentí admiración por la autora: ¿fue analfabeta hasta la adolescencia y luego se
Dec 22, 2009 Salma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
يدور حول الحريم المغربي الذي نشأت فيه في الأربعينيات من القرن الماضي من وجهة نظر طفلة في السابعة من عمرها و عن العزل و الكبت الذي كان يمارس على النساء فيه، مما جعل أمها ذات مرة تضربها حين رأتها وضعت حجابا و هي صغيرة، محذرة إياها أن تقترف الحجاب مرة ثانية و أن عليها ألا تكون محبوسة مثلها و أن تتحرر من الحريم!!!

و هذا الكتاب من شأنه أن يجعل المرء يفهم سبب كتابات فاطمة المعادية للحجاب... فالسبب يكمن في نشأتها...

لكنها للأسف قد وقعت في كتابها هذا بالتكرار حد الملل و بدا أسلوبه باهتا و هو يتحدث بلسان
Feb 02, 2014 Aziza rated it liked it
I must admit that I am more of a fan of Fatima Mernissi herself than her books. The Morrocan feminist is an icon in her own country. Born in a 1940, she did indeed grow up in a harem and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Political Science, teach sociology at Mohammed V University in Rabat, do research for UNESCO, and publish a handful of books and a multitude of articles. What is not to like? It is safe to say that she is the doyenne of scholarly research addressing the validity (or lack thereof) ...more
Sep 21, 2012 Asma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الوقوع في التناقض يعني أنكم عندما تطرحون سؤالاً تكون لديكم إجابات كثيرة جدا, وذلك لن يؤدي إلاّ لتفاقم تشوّشكم وقالت أيضاً العمة : وحين يقع المرء في تناقض, لا يشعر بأنّه ذكيُّ.. إلاّ أنكم إن أردتم أن تصبحوا راشدين, فعليكم أن تتعلموا كيف تتعاملون مع التناقض و لكن كيف ؟

صِحنا جميعنا متوسّلين لها ألا تتركنا معلّقين عند هذه النقطة, فقالت لنا : إنّ المرحلة الأولى هي التزوّد بالصبر

فالصبر هي الطريقة الوحيدة لتجاوز تناقض ما, وينبغي لكم أن تتقـبلوا أنكم في وقتٍ من الأوقات كُلما حاولتم الإحاطة بسؤالكم و اس
سارة درويش
أحببتها جدًا، أحببت الصورة التي نقلتها عن المجتمع المغربي آنذاك بتلك البساطة والوضوح.
أحببت فاطمة الطفلة وحسدتها على هذا العالم الثري بالتنوع الذي عاشته.
أحببت نصائح أمها أن لا تعرف التعاسة أبدًا ولا تعرف من الحياة إلا السعادة والانطلاق والبهجة والفرح.
أحببت شامة، والعمة حبيبة، والياسمين وشعرت وكأنني رأيتهم يومًا.
شعرت بالكثير من الحسرة على ذلك الترابط الذي لم يعد قائمًا، وعلى طرق إمتاع النفس والآخرين بأنفسهم بدلاً من الالتفاف حول التلفاز أو الكمبيوتر والاكتفاء بتلقي المتعة من آخرين بدلاً من أن نكون
Sep 14, 2010 GhaDeeR rated it liked it
كتاب ممتع جدا بلغة غاية في الجمال متوسطة مابين السهولة والتغلغل في العمق خيل لي اثناء قرائته أني اشاهد القفاطين المغربية والبيوت المزينة .. طبعا يحكي عن فترة ماقبل التحرير في المغرب وأستطاعت الكاتبة ان تنتقل من الوصف الحالم للوصف الساخر بكل سلاسة ... من خلال قصص قصيرة ذات مواضيع مختلفة لكنها تميزت بالغوص داخل نساء كتابها ومحاولة التعبير البسيط عن اقصى أحلامهن
اكثر ماجذبني في الكتاب هو التشابه في التشكيل المجتمعي بيننا وبين الحاصل في المغرب آنذاك ... وشعرت كثيرا ان النساء حول العالم وعلى اختلاف م
Khulood Shkokani
الشيء الوحيد المتأكدة منه بعد إنهاء هذا الكتاب هو أنه سيكون من أوائل الكتب التي سأهديها لإبنتي يوما ما.
وكما حلمت فاطمة "بيوم نخلق فيه عالما خاليا من الجدران والجنود، حراسه في إجازة طوال ايام السنة" سنحلم نحن بذلك، وسنحاول أن نشيد هذا العالم، ولو كان عالما صغيرا بحيط فينا بدائرة خاصة وضيقة.
فاطمة في هذه الرواية حلمت كأحلامنا، وتكلمت بكل ما يجوب بخاطرنا، وكل ما نخاف من أن نواجهه.
لا يمكنك ان تقرأ هذا الكتاب دون أن تخلق من نفسك شخصا آخر، بأحلام أكثر قوة ومتانة.
Oct 12, 2014 أسيل rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

كثرة اللت والعجن لايصال الافكار والتصورات مرهقة
حاولت ان ادخل معها عالم نساء الحريم واحلامهن وسجنهن
لكن نفسي أبت ذلك وخاصة التكرار
Jan 09, 2016 فايزة rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
مالفرق بين حريم اليوم عن الأمس عن حريم فاس عن الضيعة
لكل مكان حريمه متى ماكان هناك احتقار وذل وتبعية .
Jun 11, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
A Moroccan Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Well, not quite. But there is something of the wistfulness of Francie in Fatima Mernissi, a young girl growing up within the confines of a harem in Fez. The idea of a harem in the 1940s is somewhat different than the stereotype, and the definition of the word is something that Mernissi goes into in great detail. Let's just say that there are no eunuchs waving palm fronds or scenes from The History of the World, Part I, or Scheherazade. Although, the tales of Sc ...more
May 30, 2011 Nan rated it really liked it
We were traveling to Fez so I thought I should read a bit about the life of woman in Fez. The book was an easy read and had many historic facts that helped me understand what a "modern" day harem is all about--this is not easily answered you find out. It weaves old Moroccan tails with current changes which was so entertaining. After I finished it, I suggested my husband read it even though it is somewhat a woman's story. To my surprise he finished it quickly and enjoyed it also. In Fez, we had a ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a first-hand account of living in a harem. Fatima Mernissi is a great writer and leaves us to drop our nostalgic memories encouraged by orientalist male writers of the wonderful freedom of the harem to face the enslavement that it truly represented for the women trapped inside. A must read if one is to understand the reality behind books by authors like Mahfouz.
Sara Mohamed
Apr 05, 2017 Sara Mohamed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"شخص واحد يملك سلطة تغيير هذا الوضع وجعل الأرض تدور في النهر المعاكس وهذا الشخص هو أنتِ.إذا قاومتِ الاحتقار وحلمتِ بعالم مخالف تتغير وجهة الأرض ولكن ما عليك تجنبه بأي ثمن ،وهو أن لا يمتد هذا الاحتقار الذي يحيط بك إلى داخلك .!"
تحكي لنا فاطمة عن طفولتها و عيشها في مجتمع الحريم المغربي ،هي الطفلة الشغوفة الفضولية تكشف الستار لنا عن ماوراء جدران الحريم حيث الرتابة و التشبث بالقوانين المجتمعية الصارمة. في بيت كبير يجمع الجدات و العمات و الزوجات و البنات من مختلف الطبقات ، منهن التقليديات و منهن اللوا
Apr 06, 2014 DubaiReader rated it liked it
Shelves: kutub-bk-grp, e-book, 2014

This was a book I'd been meaning to read ever since I visited Morocco two years ago, so I was very happy that my English/Arabic book group chose to read it for this month's discussion.
Although it appears to be a memoir, the author's web site refers to it as a work of fiction and Wikipedia notes that this fact appears in the French (and Arabic) version, but not in the English one.

There are various sorts of harem around the world and the author describes two distinct types in
Dec 30, 2015 Yara added it
Let's start with what i liked:
I like how vividly their life was described, i liked how skillfuly women's mind was displayed, i liked that it showed different types of women with differnt views, how can women be against basic feminine rights and how can others be pro and still have their sanity and common sense despite the peer pressure, the society, the raising and the humiliation, How can they still preserve their self respect and self worth in their own eyes and not submit or be brainwashed ..
Barbara Burd
Sep 01, 2013 Barbara Burd rated it really liked it
This book is part of the Muslim Journeys bookshelf, a grant program sponsored by the NEH to support discussion and knowledge of different cultures. Mernissi relates tales of her experiences in a harem in Morocco in the 40s and 50s. Mernissi's harem is controlled by her father and his relatives and includes her grandmother, mother, aunts and uncles, servants and even women who would normally be abandoned by society. Mernissi relates the two controlling influences in the harem: the one wants to ma ...more
An interesting memoir by Fatema Mernessi that spans a very short period of her young life - until she was about nine years old. Mernissi was a Moroccan feminist writer and sociologist, who died in November 2015. Her early years were spent living in a harem in Fez - harem was the place of shelter or the living quarters for females - mothers, daughters, widows, aunts, etc. Men’s quarters were separate. There were dos and don’ts - no crossing the “hudud” or frontier, and girls were taught to respec ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nancy by: Petra Eggs
Shelves: history, memoir, wwii
This memoir is of the first 9 or 10 years of Fatema Mernissi's life written from a child's point of view. Adult reflections giving us hints of the world beyond the walls are presented as discussions she had with adults (mostly women) in the large household. Ms. Mernissi's childhood in 1940's Morocco was a time of tremendous societal change. I finished the book wanting to read more about the era.

The image most Americans have of harem life is pretty much a male fantasy that doesn't reflect the re
Jun 23, 2011 Tenhertine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mernissi's semi-fictional childhood autobiography managed to literally enchant me, so much so that I was close to sobbing in big gulps when the last page had to be turned. She manages to slip in such a load of information about Arab feminists, and the historical period she focuses on, while constantly and elaborately creating a ravishing cast of characters. I am surely biased in my appreciation of this book, seen as I read it to alleviate my pangs of missing Morocco after my stay there. With her ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Christina rated it it was amazing
This is a true story of a girl that grew up in a harem in Morocco. Not a Harem like we think of in the west, but a muslim family group all living together. I really liked this book. It was sweet and entertaning and you really felt this little girl's confusion about harems, frontiers and the rules of her society. I also loved the parts about women's solidarity and what it took to get those little girls educated. I laughed out loud in places and was inspired by the mothers and grandmothers in the ...more
Jul 03, 2015 Hajar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fatema Mernissi ici donne Hommage a la femme marocaine et décrit la situation vécu au cours des années 40 dans un Harem , tout en menant une certaine imagination et plusieurs significations de ce mot. La libération était l thématique principale dans son conte. Un récit raconté par Fatema a l'age de sept ans dont elle aborde plusieurs sujets et affronte tout sorte de répression contre les femmes dans cette époque avec une profonde sagesse et analyse sociologique.
`ce qu'il me faut ajouter ici , q
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AKA فاطمة المرنيسي
Mernissi was born into a middle-class family. She received her primary education in a school established by the nationalist movement, and secondary level education in an all-girls school funded by the French protectorate. In 1957, she studied political science at the Sorbonne and at Brandeis University, where she earned her doctorate. She returned to work at the Mohammed V Univer
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“Nature is woman's best friend,' she [Yasmina] often said. 'If you're having troubles, you just swim in the water, stretch out in a field, or look up at the stars. That's how a woman cures her fears'.” 73 likes
“But Aunt Habiba said not to worry, that everyone had wonderful things hidden inside. The only difference was that some managed to share those wonderful things, and others did not. Those who did not explore and share the precious gifts within went through life feeling miserable, sad, awkward with others, and angry too. You had to develop a talent, Aunt Habiba said, so that you could give something, share and shine. And you developed a talent by working very hard at becoming good at something. It could be anything - singing, dancing, cooking, embroidering, listening, looking, smiling, waiting, accepting, dreaming, rebelling, leaping. 'Anything you can do well can change your life', said Aunt Habiba.” 16 likes
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