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Thursday, June 14, 2012

An American Chick in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson




Jean Sasson, an intrepid Southern woman famous for writing Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia provides a short but interesting memoir of her life in Saudi Arabia in this book.  Nothing fazed this young woman, not even the vicious military police.  She writes about her experiences as a white woman in a restrictive Muslim country and her romance with Peter Sasson.

Sasson arrives to work in a lavishly decorated hospital which King Faisal dreamed of making the finest medical hospital in the world.  She enjoys her job and she likes sharing an apartment with two other women.  Sasson, young and adventurous, is ready to experience life in a very different country.

She soon becomes shocked by the mistreatment and lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia.  Women are forbidden to drive or dance with men in public.  They often have arranged marriages at a very young age.  Saudi husbands can easily leave them or have more than one wife. Many wives are beaten.  Some men even sleep in the hospital beds of their sick wives while the wives sleep on the floor. Sasson becomes determined to meet as many women as she can and try to fight for more freedoms for Saudi women.

Sasson is surprised, however, when she pretends to be a Saudi woman and she meets Malaak.  Even though Malaak got married young and the marriage was arranged, she is happy with her life.

The romance in the book leavens this sad tale of restrictions and is quite sweet.  Sasson meets Peter, the head of an insurance company who speaks six languages.   Peter is impressed by this audacious and resolute woman.  Soon they are dating. He protects her when her adventures start taking her into dangerous territory – she is almost arrested at one stage by the military police, for example.

Sasson updates this memoir at the end by telling the readers that life for Saudi women has improved to some extent, however, they still suffer many restrictions.

I would like to read a longer version of this book.  I also liked the photos – these helped me envision the places which Sasson was writing about.

Jean Sasson provides a short but interesting memoir of her life in Saudi Arabia in this book.  Nothing fazed this young woman, not even the vicious military police.  She writes about her experiences as a white woman in a restrictive Muslim country and her romance with Peter Sasson.

Sasson arrives to work in a lavishly decorated hospital which King Faisal dreamed of making the finest medical hospital in the world.  She enjoys her job and she likes sharing an apartment with two other women.  Sasson, young and adventurous, is ready to experience life in a very different country. Her boss knows King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd well and he introduces her to people in the higher echelons of Saudi society.

She soon becomes shocked by the mistreatment and lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia.  Women are forbidden to dance or drive.  They often have arranged marriages at a very young age.  Saudi husbands can easily leave them or have more than one wife. Many wives are beaten.  Some men even sleep in the hospital beds of their sick wives while the wives sleep on the floor. Sasson becomes determined to meet as many women as she can and try to fight for more freedoms for Saudi women.

Sasson is surprised, however, when she pretends to be a Saudi woman and she meets Malaak.  Even though Malaak got married young and the marriage was arranged, she is happy with her life.

The romance in the book leavens this sad tale of restrictions and is quite sweet.  Sasson meets Peter, the head of an insurance company who speaks six languages.    Peter is impressed by this audacious and resolute woman.  Soon they are dating. He protects her when her adventures start taking her into dangerous territory – she is almost arrested at one stage by the military police, for example.

Sasson updates this memoir at the end by telling the readers that life for Saudi women has improved to some extent, however, they still suffer many restrictions.

I would like to read a longer version of this book.  I also liked the photos – these helped me envision the places which Sasson was writing about.

New York Times interview with Jean Sasson

4 comments:

Jean Sasson said...

Enjoyed your very thoughtful review. Thank you! I will be following from now on as I want to read your reviews about other books. I would like to note that it was Dr. Feteih, my Saudi boss at the hospital who knew King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd, rather than Peter Sasson. I was fortunate that in 1982, I got to meet both King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd through Dr. Feteih. Also, would like to clarify that Saudi women are allowed to dance. While they cannot dance in public with men (can't even be with men in public unless it is immediate family) they can dance with other women and do, with great joy, in fact! Once again, thanks! Jean Sasson

Jean Sasson said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful review. I will be following your blog because I will enjoy your take on other books. I would like to clarify that it was my Saudi boss who was close to King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd. Peter did not know them and never met them. I was pleased to get the chance to meet them both in 1982 through my Saudi boss. Also, Saudi women can dance with each other, but not with men, at least not in public! Thanks, again! Jean Sasson

Viola said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comments! I'm so glad that you liked my review and that you enjoy reading the blog.

I am sorry that I got those points wrong. I will correct them. I remember now your vivid description of the Saudi women dancing with each other at a party which you attended. I am going to make the alterations now.

Jean Sason said...

Thanks, Viola! I really appreciate your care to detail... I hope you get to read more of my books. For now, have a lovely day, Jean