Archives for category: Womens Issues

I find this book pretty haunting because of Noora’s gender contraints, arranged marriage, lack of choices due to her family’s lack of money and influence, and in the end her choice. Perhaps it deserves five stars and I am judging it on my reaction to the characters choices in the plot rather than on the writing itself.

In Noora’s childhood in the rural area Musandam penisula of Oman nothing was easy for her family financially but she had quite a lot of freedom to be herself up to the point where her father has become mentally ill and her brother becomes head of the family. There were some very interesting pieces here, the visits from the matchmaker, advice from her mother, local people’s understanding of madness, etc. Noora is deeply loved by a young man who she can’t marry, something that many women can relate to, the lost soul mate.  At one point she and her brother go to inquire to a witch/healer about their father’s health.  I found that an especially interesting scene.  From here everything quickly changes for Noora and she is sent off to live as the third wife to a middle age man.   The person in the household who becomes most like a friend to her is a slave girl.  Here in that family she comes to understand deception, power, family politics, and grows up quickly.   The ending for me shows how far she has come in just two years.

The descriptions of landscape and character portrayals are rich here.

Last year I vacationed in Dubai and it was interesting to see how life was quite different in the city but some things are the same like the Abra rides on Dubai creek and the souks surrounding that area. I visited the historic house, the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House and with that I could easily imagine the sort of big, traditional house with windtowers and many rooms where the pearl merchant of the story lives.  The social life of even the 1950s feels remote to the amazing modern city with tanilizingly beautiful skyscrapers and flower gardens everywhere.

This is an important book and I am glad that Maha Gargash wrote it and that my friend recommended it to me.  As a cultural insider Ms. Gargash is a perfect guide on the journey that is the plot of this novel.

Please share your book recommendations for other books that are similiar to this.

The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai

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Written by Sue Braunschweig

Today on Mother’s Day here in the United States, I am thinking about mothering, the place we have in society by virtue of being in this collective group of mothers and the very real economic challenges many mothers face.

Women struggle economically for many reasons in the world.  Working in social services I am well versed in the reasons for women’s poverty in the United States .  The reasons range from lack of basic education, learning disabilities, mental illness as a result of being a victim of abuse, illness, social programs that erode rather than build self confidence, family size, desertion by spouse or boyfriend, unwed mothers, drugs, other family members taking advantage of the woman, the premature death of their own parents, growing up in the foster care system, etc.etc.

I have spent the greater part of the morning reading about courageous women in the Middle East and North Africa who are taking on unpopular causes like helping unwed mothers and those whose husbands are too ill to provide or who have deserted them by  assisting them with basic needs and training. Often these spirited women are directors of non profits groups and face criticism from some in their societies. I have read this morning about a woman named, Aicha Channa in Casablanca Morocco and a society called, Ihsan Charity in Ajman, United Arab Emirates. Government, in addition to non profits, is playing a leading role in helping women through offering training programs, for example in Saudi Arabia.

On this day I think of women all over the world who are searching for training programs to provide them enough economic security to care for their families.  I pray for the woman whose options are confined by her own level of confidence, inability to take a risk, lack of information or lack of support from her family members.

In my work in workforce development I help men and women and love to ask them the question:  “What is your dream job… your biggest career goal?”  Eighty percent of the time I get a hesitant stare, but I know I am connecting because it’s a stare deep into my eyes. What I say next is, “What would be your biggest goal if you could study anything you want without worry for how to finance it or constraints on your time?”  Sometimes I need to push a little bit further with some women with the question, “What did you use to want to be before you had a family?”  Then I hear about their long stifled goals to be a nurse, or a social worker, doctor or business owner.  They don’t elaborate much and I can feel the dead energy of a deflated dream.  Sometimes life and especially life in the low economic rungs of American society have a way of squelching those dreams.  I explain to them that we don’t have the funding to get anyone to their loftiest goal, but very often we can get them to that first “rung” on the ladder, that we call a “career path”.  Just realizing that you are at the beginning of the path is empowering.  For example, as a nursing assistant they will get the chance to move up to higher levels and closer to their goal.  In the United States part of the difficulty is in not knowing where to go for direction and funding which is where our Job Center system comes in.

Blessed is the family that encourages dreams, the parent that builds up and not rips down and who affirms the child by showing their pleasure in seeing their child when the child enters the room.   That confidence is what will propel them when life gets hard.  That kernel will give them the courage to build their skills, finish their GEDs or BS or MS or PHD or learn a trade.  That kernel will show them that they have a place in the world and an obligation to help make this world a better place.     Think about what you could achieve, what I could achieve, your daughter, or your niece, your sister or your mother  if our energy was unbridled.

Happy Mother’s Day World!

by Sue Braunschweig

In Dubai Wives ZvezdanaRashkovich delivers a trip to Dubai without the airline ticket and additional expenses for hotel and restaurant and that was just what I was looking for. Zvezdana introduces the reader to the glamorous and the gritty in the exotic desert city on the Arabian Gulf that she currently calls home.

In truth I am still mourning the fact that I couldn’t attend the Dubai Literary Festival this year where I had hoped to meet the author in person.  We have become Twitter friends within the last six months or so.  Plain and simple she lives in a really cool place.  This I know for a fact because I travelled to Dubai on vacation last year.  In my past life I was an expat wife in Hong Kong so I can relate to the life of some of her characters and circle of friendship among diverse types of women far from their native homelands and families.

After receiving the book I found that she had self-published and wondered why she took that road. Then I began to read.  I found that I was quickly sucked into the exotic and dangerous world she created.  There in the pages were the fancy shopping malls that I visited and adored.  There was the restaurant by the yacht club where I sat listening to the waves crash.  There was the high spire of the Burj Dubai towering over the city seemingly piercing the heavens.  In the pages I found again the glorious Palm where I got goose bumps on the double-decker tour bus ride I took as it drove us on the road that forms the “trunk” past condos and villas, a mosque and finally at the tip the Atlantis Hotel.  I could again glimpse the Indian and Pakistani neighborhood where my hotel was located.  I was there while India won the world cup and I remember the electricity of those days in the clogged streets near my hotel and the ecstatic shop keepers in the gold souk.

Zvezdana’s characters welcomed me into the expat life that I of course didn’t get to participate in during my short visit to her city.  Here were belly dancers from Eastern Europe, a young Moroccan ripped from her home and into the sex trade by opportunist “relative”, businessmen caught in greed, expats who have lost touch with their humble beginnings, wealthy women, and an American convert to Islam who married a man with a secret.  It was a fascinating tour–like a friend who showed you around the good and the bad of her hometown and let you in on the secrets of her friends.

Pacing of the book was fast.  Within the first twenty pages I was hooked and fully engrossed in the strange tale set in Dubai.

The only “flaw” in the book is a handful of uncorrected typos that easily would have been cleaned up by an editor if she had had the benefit of a full staff at a traditional publishing house.

Dubai Wives is a strong first novel by Zvezdana Rashkovich.  She is currently working on a second. ‘Africa in the way I dance’ set in 1970’s Sudan where she grew up on farm by the Nile.

This afternoon I watched the documentary, Saudis in America, by Fahmi Farouk Farahat, 2008.  The filmmaker introduces us to his friends and family and they answer some tough questions about their thoughts on women’s issues, Americans misconceptions about Saudis and their country, treatment of Saudis in America post 9/11, and life in both countries.  I recommend it to anyone with an interest in modern Saudi Arabia and women in Saudi Arabia. It is warm and informative and especially interesting to me are the interviews with women as I have not met many Saudi women.

Saudis in America