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Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  11,797 Ratings  ·  1,186 Reviews
With a New Afterword

As a prizewinning foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrections, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women. Nine Parts of Des
Paperback, 255 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Anchor (first published 1994)
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Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Islam
Aaargh. I just wrote a bloody long review of this book then the ******* goodreads website ate it. Anyway, starting over....

" Read, in the name of thy Lord
Who hath created all things, who
Hath created man of congealed blood.
Read, by thy most beneficent Lord,
Who taught us the use of the pen,
who teaches man that which he knoweth not."

The Koran: The Chapter of Congealed Blood

I have been living, working and travelling in the Middle East since I was nineteen years old. That's over eleven years now. In
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Islam and women
Recommended to janet by: Susan Michael Hoelschen
Shelves: non-fiction
Now that I have moved away from Arabia after living there for three years, I was ready to read a book about women and Islam. I tend to be dubious about any book that claims to have the real story on this topic, but found this book worth reading.
When I read the title, I thought I was going to learn more about the sexuality of Arabic women. Instead, the book was about the lives of Islamic women as wives, mothers, workers, and citizens. In her attempt to understand Islamic women, she also got to k
Mar 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Before reading this book, I remember looking at the woman who were completely covered by their berka and thinking how repressed they were. I felt sorry for the freedom they were denied. My landlord at the time gave me his copy and I although I was hesitant, I agreed to read it...and I am so glad I did! The book delves deep into the roots of the Muslim beliefs and allows an outsider to appreciate a custom we would otherwise know little about. I learned that most woman (interviewed) do not feel re ...more
Hafsa Umar
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it
As a Muslim woman I was interested in reading this book as to have an idea of how Muslim women are viewed by non-Muslim westerners.I was a bit confused reading this book as most of the issues discussed such as the honor killings or removal of clitoris have never even been heard by me. A distinction between culture and religion really has to be made as I sense that the middle Eastern have very deep rooted cultures that have tangled with Islam and because they form the bulk of Muslim population,at ...more
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
I live in Dubai and know a lot of people who have read this book, besides myself. I am an American, so you'd think my perspective would be similar to Brooks', but it's not. It is true, there are extreme, evil, awful and just wrong things that happen in the name of fundumental Islam, and I know I have shared stories with expat friends about them. But I and everyone I know who has read this book have been left with a bad taste. Brooks is a very good, engaging writer, and I did learn some things fr ...more
Hmm... Personally it always makes me uncomfortable when an outsider criticizes and analyzes a religion that is not their own. There are enough people from Muslim countries who are scathingly critical of their own culture and write about it. When someone from the West does it, it always appears to be condescending even when they are trying to be objective.
This book was written in the 90s, so while not all the information is necessarily dated, it's definitely not up to date. This was also the tim
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This should be required reading.... or at least strongly encouraged, this book was written in 1994. THis was entertaining with a lot of research and facts made more interesting by interviewing and living with the people she wrote about. I am buying a copy ASAP (borrowed from the library)
Brooks writes, “because this is the kind of sterile, segregated world that (fundamentalists) are calling for, right now, for their countries and for the entire Islamic world. None of these groups is saying, ‘Let’
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nine Parts Of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women is a wonderful informative read.

The author an Austrailian reporter who spend the late 1980s and early 90s in the Middle East as a reporter, and during her time there decided to get to know the women of Islam and spent a lot of time interviewing and getting to know these women of different social status and different ages to bring us a very interesting account of Islamic history, Islamic women and the traditions of today.

I love reading about
I read this as part of a bookclub discussion. The book was selected by a lovely woman who fled Iran 24 years ago, and had lived through the revolution, war and economic sanctions against her country. She said she started reading it a year ago but it was just too emotional and so she thought with the support of the bookclub she could get through it. I was grateful for her choice as this was interesting, informative and a unique perspective on the topic. Instead of a classic 'book report' I have d ...more
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm currently obsessed with this book. It's coming up in all my conversations. I even made my 102 students listen to a page and a half or so. Fascinating, horrifying, and terribly important stuff for anyone who cares about women and girls, religion, war and peace. I'm reading and re-reading (when I should be reading and writing other stuff!) and hoping I remember it all.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it

By no means an exhausting approach but much, much better than a similar themed book I read last year (The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad) Nine Parts of Desire does something more non-fiction books should do: it asks more questions than it answers.

While Geraldine Brooks doesn't shy away from giving her opinion, she is sensible enough to put the women she met throughout her years as a reporter in the Middle East at the centre of her book. She got them to trust her, got them to talk ab
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A very detailed examnation of first hand experiences with Islamic women in the Middle East. I hadn't read anything by Brooks before, though two of her novels are in my TBR pile, and picked this up at Borders going out of business sale because it looked interesting.

Brooks is one brave mama, I must say.

The presentation is rather interesting and it is somewhat surprsing, at least to the reader, that even women who are fundamentalist or anti-American (or Anti-Jewish even) are presented in such a lig
Shahd Fadlalmoula
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
How does one start to review this book without pointing out the obvious?*sighs*
She is an Australian who hasn't even bothered to learn the language of the Quran, and readily provides distorted translations which make her lose credibility. I also wish she was more careful with her choice of words and her relay in a lot of parts. Like I don't want someone who doesn't know anything about Islam to read this and think Muslims go to shrines and offer "prayers to saints" (we only offer prayers to God, F
Definitely worth reading, but do NOT listen to the audiobook narrated by the author. She is a good author, but not a good narrator. Dreary, let me just leave it at that......

The writing reflects that she is trained as a journalist. However, the book is rather unstructured and reads as a group of different stories. Story after story of different Muslim women's experiences in the Middle East in the early 90s. Even if it isn't totally up-to-date you have to understand the past to understand the pr
Meredith Watts
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People interested in the Muslim world
This book is by the author of last year's Pulitzer winner "March", Geraldine Brooks. This was written based on her experiences as a reporter in the Middle East, trying to understand what it's like to be a Muslim woman in a number of different Islamic countries. Along the way, she studies the Koran, shedding some light on Mohammed's writings. My book club read this book long before the current interest in all things Islam. I would recommend it for that reason; Brooks has no political agenda. She ...more
Reem Reeding
Aug 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Reem by: The F Word
I hated this book. Right from the introduction I got annoyed and knew I was gonna be in for an annoying ride. She starts off this book saying outright that Muslim women are oppressed. What the hell?

bell hooks,Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, writes "When we write about the experiences of a group to which we do not belong, we should think about the ethics of our action, considering whether or not our work will be used to reinforce and perpetuate domination."

In this case I think sh
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a fascinating, if poorly titled, work of nonfiction. Brooks spent several years as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, where she spent time with hundreds of women – some of them newsworthy in their own right, others just average people.

The title gives a false impression of the book on two counts: first, while sex and marriage are discussed, these topics are not the primary focus; and second, the book doesn’t pretend to discuss the lives of Islamic women everywhere – Brooks travel
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-books
I had a really hard time getting through this book for two reasons- first it was extremely repetitive, covering the same subjugation of women in Muslim countries. Second I became frustrated with these same issues and found myself boiling with rage, mostly because I see so many of these things happening in our country in the radical right's war on women. The religious fundamentalists of all denominations seem to have an irrational fear of women as an educated, equal segment of society. This book ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was published over 10 years ago so I assume that it is a bit outdated. I am afraid that the conditions for Islamic women have mostly gotten worse than described. I am also going to assume the ratings for this book varied widely. Some were probably so vile that they had to be blocked and other ratings may have been overly idealistic and condemning of the religion vs. traditions of the Islamic countries, some of which are still very much backwards (to those of us in the west).
I found the
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was written in 1994, pre-9/11 and pre my interest in the Middle East. I mean I knew a little bit about a couple of countries, but not much. This book changes that. I had read Brooks book, Year of Wonders about the plague, and March, about the Civil War – both excellent books, but I had no idea she was an accomplished journalist whom the Wall Street Journal had sent to the Middle East as a foreign correspondent – and not for six month, but for 6 years. Her curiosity, open mindedness and ...more
Ramiz Qudsi
Aug 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I have read at least 10 books about the history of Islam and have never come across the fact that Ayesha took arms against the Caliph himself, or that Fatima never approved of one of the Caliphs. Both are arguably the most prominent women in Islam. Surprisingly, Mom (a well read woman in Islamic history) didn't know either.
I guess we (the Islamic scholars) tend to write the history forgetting any instance which may stain the otherwise pristine sheet of Islam. Unfortunately though, the history sh
Ladan F
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
This is an absolutely fascinating book. Brooks doesn't really bog the reader down with too much "research" - she gives you a good historical and literary background, but she fleshes out that framework with anecdotes from her meetings with Muslim women. Though it is obvious that Brooks abhors the treatment of women under most forms of Islam, she is very careful to show that this is mostly a political issue and NOT actually advocated in the Koran.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read06
An interesting look inside various groups of Islamic women, contrasted with what the Koran says, what the cultures practicing Islam have ended up doing, and other surprises. Good for a general overview, and good for breaking stereotypes. Has a good glossary and excellent bibliography at the end.
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Before writing Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks worked as a reporter (Middle East correspondent) for The Wall Street Journal and lived in numerous countries throughout the Middle East for almost a decade. She seems to have been personal friends with everyone: dinners with Queen Noor of Jordan, casual visits with Khomeini’s daughters in Iran, conversations with a woman who personally helped hold the American Embassy hostages at gunpoint in Iran in 1979—all are discussed in the book as though it’ ...more
Tuscany Bernier
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
For being a book on Muslim women written through the eyes of a non-Muslim, I enjoyed it. The writer is a Jewish lady who travelled all over the Middle East to find the truth about Islamic practices. Which things were sanctioned by Islam and which ones were cultural? She discusses issues through the lens of a Western lady who struggles to understand the why and how of certain things, yet she touches on these issues in such an straight forward yet kind way. She asks repeatedly why imams, clerics, ...more
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Islam means submission. This is just one of the facts that I learned from this book. It became not just a fact but an insight as I continued reading it.

The book's excellence is demonstrated in that 13 years after its publication it is still being read. Since its publication there have been many books on this topic, including social studies and personal narratives, but this one still stands out.

Brooks spent 6 years in traveling to Middle Eastern Islamic countries covering the plight of women. Whi
Deborah Blair
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books that I have read that helps Western women really understand what is going on with women in Islam. Because we often do NOT understand, in being "western" we can often cause more harm than good.

In working to help Christian and Jews of the west to understand women of Islam, I have often used this as a reference, a recommendation for church groups, and for people helping women refugees and immigrants from Islamic countries integrate here in the west.

Along with comparat
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book - originally published in 1994. Would love updated information. Was not aware that Geraldine Brooks ("People of the Book" - one of my all-time favorites) had been an Australian journalist covering the Middle East for many years. Her curiosity as to how Muslim women in Middle East Countries felt/reacted to the increasing necessity to totally cover when outside the 'house' plus all the other inhibitions of their activities. Had been asking the same questions - how could women allow this ...more
Feb 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Have you ever wondered about the women covered from head to toe? You know that they are Muslim, but do you know anything beyond that?

Geraldine Brooks, in her highly accessible book, explains the plight of Muslim women in the Middle East. She travels from country to country, meeting women and sharing stories with them. From her time with Queen Noor in Jordan to her belly dancing stint in Egypt, Brooks learns about women and their religion and their religion's limitations.

Sometimes frightening and
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE Geraldine Brooks. I think she is an amazingly insightful woman who has an incredible ability to clearly present a difficult concept. I feel like I have a much clearer sense of the Muslim religion and how men and women who practice it interact with each other and the rest of the world. She did an amazing job of personalizing all of these women and their lives and stories for someone from a completely different background. I think that everyone should read this book, especially given the wo ...more
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  • Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East
  • Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World
  • Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate
  • The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam
  • Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran
  • The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
  • Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran
  • Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia
  • Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran
  • Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
  • In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
  • A Winter in Arabia
  • Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women's Resistance
  • Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution
  • In Search of Islamic Feminism
  • Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject
  • Censoring an Iranian Love Story
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu
More about Geraldine Brooks

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“While I would champion any campaign to support Muslim women who do not wish to cover. I would now also protest vigorously for the right of a woman to wear that covering, if it is what she wants and believes in. Ayatollah Khomeini and Jacques Chirac have much more in common than either of them would care to acknowledge. Each tried to solve overarching social problems by imposing his will on the bodies of women.” 4 likes
“In both cases, women are expected to sacrifice their comfort and freedom to service the requirements of male sexuality: either to repress or to stimulate the male sex urge.” 0 likes
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