Benji's Reviews > Nine Parts of Desire

Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine  Brooks
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Jan 18, 11

bookshelves: 2011, read-in-morocco
Read in January, 2011

What I got was different than what I thought. I expected this book to be biased after having read my friend's review of the book. It was much more different, but of course a lot of this work pushes different buttons in different people based on how you come to the book. As far as the conversion, yes, she doesnt take it seriously as it happens but she shows an inverse amount of courage once she converted, only once lying about her religion no matter what country she is in. And as far as it demonstrating any kind of bias, I feel instead that she defends Islam much of the time, and doesn't seem at odds with the lifestyle that is defined by it. Instead, her biases are against the close-minded adherents that distort it. So, its like defending the religion against the ones that wish to point it another way. In that sense, I'd say it's got pretty honorable intentions, much more than the sort of secular/feminist diatribe that I'd expected. She seems to say repeatedly and in different contexts to those in North Africa and outside the Arabian gulf that the ''Made in Saudi Arabia'' talking points shouldn't be given extra weight compared to th traditions in t other countries. One is not automatically more right, nor are the more strict and oppressive forms automatically closer to the 'fundamentals'. Instead, they might be farther away.

My favorite chapter by far is the one on the women being trained for the military and challenged in doing so. Their personal growth, as well as those military women from the US, provide a very unique and interesting case study. While reading this, I imagined my Moroccan sisters doing the same thing, and they are already more experienced and cosmopolitan than the ladies in the book (they have co-ed schools, no one enforcing their clothing choices so harshly--they can wear colors, not just all black, nor the degree of distrust found in the Gulf) That situation revealed different parts of the moral absurdity and contradictions, ''they can shoot a man but can't shake his hand'' to paraphrase one part of it, as well as the rigorous lengths that were necessary and the emotional challenges and surprises for the women that volunteered. That less than 20 percent quit the program was inspiring and demonstrative of the women's desire and determination. From a very cloistered environment to the polar opposite in nearly every other regard, it was an enlightening section of the book.

Second favorite part is the chapter on the internal drama in the house of the Prophet. Some of these I remembered from Rushdie. And I appreciated learning about the role of the hadith and what exactly is morally required, and what is morally good, vs. what is prohibited and what is not praiseworthy but not prohibited.
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