Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

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Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women is the story of Brook's intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. In fundamentalist Iran, Brooks finagles an invitation to tea with the ayatollah's widow - and discovers that Mrs. Khomeini dyes her hair. In Saudi Arabia, she eludes the severe segregation of the sexes and attends a bacchanal, laying bare the hypocrisy of this austere,...
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Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

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Overview

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women is the story of Brook's intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. In fundamentalist Iran, Brooks finagles an invitation to tea with the ayatollah's widow - and discovers that Mrs. Khomeini dyes her hair. In Saudi Arabia, she eludes the severe segregation of the sexes and attends a bacchanal, laying bare the hypocrisy of this austere, male-dominated society. In war-torn Ethiopia, she watches as a female gynecologist repairs women who have undergone genital mutilation justified by a distorted interpretation of Islam. In villages and capitals throughout the Middle East, she finds that a feminism of sorts has flowered under the forbidding shroud of the chador as she makes other startling discoveries that defy our stereotypes about the Muslim world. Nine Parts of Desire is much more than a captivating work of firsthand reportage; it is also an acute analysis of the world's fastest-growing religion, deftly illustrating how Islam's holiest texts have been misused to justify the repression of women. It was, after all, the Shiite leader Ali who proclaimed that "God created sexual desire in ten parts, then gave nine parts to women."

In this captivating book, award-winning journalist Geraldine Brooks offers an intimate, often shocking portrait of the lives of modern Muslim women, and shows how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once-liberating faith. "A valid, entertaining account of women in the Muslim world."--The New York Times Book Review.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Having spent six years covering the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks presents an exploration of the daily life of Muslim women and the often contradictory forces that shape their lives. Jan.
From the Publisher
“Frank, enraging, and captivating.”
The New Yorker

“Powerful and enlightening...Brooks presents stunning vignettes of Muslim women...and carefully distinguishes misogyny and oppressive cultural traditions from what she considers the true teachings of the Koran.”
Publishers Weekly

“There has been nothing finer on the subject from a Western observer...she looks at it from the heart...mixing historical perspective with piercingly observed journalism.”
Newsday

“Avoids both the sensational and the stereotypical...insightful...a valid, entertaining account of women in the Muslim world.”
New York Times Book Review

“A rare look at a significant segment of the world's population that literally has been cloaked in mystery for generations.”
Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141029405
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010

Meet the Author

Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks is a native of Australia and a graduate of Sydney University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Virginia with her husband, Tony Horwitz. This is her first book.

Biography

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 issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master's program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

Her first novel, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague was an international bestseller. In 2006, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for March, a story that imagines the Civil War experiences of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women. She has also written nonfiction, including Foreign Correspondence, an award-winning memoir about her search for the international penpals who enriched her childhood.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

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(22)

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(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2004

    an unusually balanced portrayal

    Books on Islam and especially books regarding the treatment of women in the Islamic world tend to be, for the most part, biased and one-sided, clinging to cries of human rights violations and oppression. And while it's true that these things do occur in some countries, that is by all means a cultural practice and is due to the misinterpretation of the religion by fundamentalist regimes. Islam in its truest form is a religion that honors and respects the woman, and many women choose to wear the veil as a sign of modesty and submission to God. I thought Brooks did a pretty good job showing the cultural implications and contrasting them with Islamic law, especially with issues like female circumcision and abuse, which are clearly not permitted in Islam. Although I sometimes detected a hint of negativity in her voice, I believe this to be one of the more accuate books on this subject that can be found today.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    definately misleading

    It is so obvious from the very first page that the writer started this book with the intention 'this book is to tell the readers that Islam is an oppressive religion and women in Islam and very unhappy'. Those who 'like' to hear that, will love the book, those who really know how Muslim women live their lives, will immediately understand that this book is a piece of crap. I don't understand, why does this writer force her biased ideas on the readers. Ultimately, anyone who does not know about Islam would end up thinking that because the writer has 'been to Muslim countries' knows 'the religion' which is very untrue. I am a Shia Muslim girl and I would like people to know that I am an independent person with a free will. Islam does not stop me from earning a livelihood or taking decisions about my life. Yes, it does guide me to the right path where, I cannot be exploited in any way and I am very glad it does. I was not born in the middle east, but I have lived a major part of my life there, and now reside in the west, so I think I am at least familiar with all these cultures, never the less, I am trying to understand the western culture with an open mind, unlike the writer of this book. wearing hijab (a veil) is my personal choice because I don't want men to ogle at me when I step out of my home. I want to be rather identified as a 'dignified person'. I am and was always loved by my family and my father, brothers or my husband never disrespected me. Personally, after knowing women and men from different religions and the attitude of men towards the women, I feel that a Muslim women are actually more liberated, than women in other religions. Islam does not make me any lesser of a person just because I am a female, in fact, as a women I am more respected, valued and hence more protected by my religion. By the way, as the writer shows interest in quoting the words of Imam Ali (A.S) with regards to the parts of desire, and is trying to show the status of women in Islam, Perhaps she might want to gather some sayings of his about how women should be treated in Islam and their actual status and respect in the religion according to Imam Ali (A.S) himself, or may be the Holy Quran, just for a better understanding

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2008

    Sophia's Review

    'The Nine Parts of Desire' is one of the best books I've ever read! It was written by a Jewish woman who traveled around Middle Eastern countries trying to understand Islam. Through the book she talks about her personal experiences with Muslim women. She also shows how women really feel about Islam, and how she feels about Islam. It is interesting to read about how the Muslim women react when she tells them that she is Jewish. I think this is a great book for anyone who wants to understand Muslim women.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2008

    ...sigh...

    All those neo-orientalists out there will eat this book up like candy...lets start with the good...the writer makes an excellent point when she points out the critics 'wrath on the commentators criticizing the practices, and not on the crimes themselves'. Furthermore, she does pull the reader in with her lush descriptions...but what bothers me is her tone. Why does she mock that which she does not believe...I would think that spending so much time with the Muslim women 'whom she claims have become her close friends' she would have narrated the events without peppering them with her personal prejudices and judgements. The quotes from the Quran before each chapter are rife with scorn especially when taken in context with the title and content of the particular chapter. It's hard to accept her 'neutral stance' when you can literally see the contemptuous smile on her face as she writes about a religion she is so obviously not willing to learn anything about...when I was done, it basically left me asking...so what is the point of this book?

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great FICTION novel

    Culture is NOT religion. this book is very bias on it's ideas. I have been studying Islam and I can tell you this.. it is not an oppressive religion. I find it fascinating that the husband has no claim to his wife's money. If she chooses to give him some it is CHARITY. Show me that rule in other religions. She also does not need to take his name but may choose her family's name. Oppression is being told from Age 5 you need to be thin and beautiful or you are nothing, and to wear this or that so you will be pretty in the eyes of men. I know I am an American, you are taught to look for this vindication. Also St. Paul tells the women to sit down and be quiet. Islam says Heaven lies at the feet of mothers. Very different then the way this book portrays it. I suggest ppl taking a comparative religion class of Islamic class and learn the truth. Just as Christians don't want ppl to say the culture of America represents Christianity. the same goes for Arabism representing Islam. only 20% of muslims are Arab anyway.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    Make this part of the curriculum

    Just as 'Year of Wonders' has become a part of the curriculum of high school students, so should this work by Geraldine Brooks. Even though it is a journalistic encounter, it is still easy to read and offers a great glimpse in what some women (not all!) in Islamic culture in different parts of the world go through. Religious tolerance and respect should be a seed that is planted early on in life. And for people old enough to understand, this is a terrific book!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2005

    A hard book to read but fair

    Having been in NYC on September 11th, this was a very hard book for me to get through. I read this book to help me understand the Muslim culture in hopes to mitigating my distaste. I thought the author put forth a strong effort to 'stick to the facts without commentary' of practices Western Women cannot understand. Ms. Brooks helped me appreciate/understand Muslim women. The jury is still out on mitigation of my distaste.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2004

    less than objective

    Brooks argues that 'the Muslim world' should be held accountible for the actions of a minority group of extremists. Certainly she covers some troubling issues regarding the experiences of women in some Muslim communities, but she does not discuss the women in politics, religious groups and social service organizations who are working to the betterment of women and families. She does not give reasonable analysis to the complex historical, political, economic and religious forces that shape many of the practices westerners find objectionable. True, we would all like to see these abuses eradicated, but without considering them within their social context, considering their significance and how to allow communities and families to retain their identities while reshaping certain traditional ideas, is biased and short-sighted.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2003

    Great book

    The book I am writing about is Nine Parts of Desire a book by Geraldine Brooks. This book is non-fiction with some narrative parts. Most of the book is telling facts and statistics about women in Muslim countries. This book documents Brooks¿ life in the Middle East and the women she met there. The copyright date is December 1995. The thesis is about how Islamic women live with their religion and the many parts that are not really known about the religion. In this essay I will identify the thesis of Nine Parts of Desire and provide a short summary of the story. This book was written with the idea of letting people across the world understand the world of the women behind the veil. This book helps you get a real idea of women¿s life in the Middle East. The thesis of the book is really well explained. Brooks makes it obvious that, though she never criticizes the Islam religion that aspects of the religion, such as genital mutilation, and others horrible things like that, have to be changed. Brooks also brings in aspects of the Prophet and explains how minor Islamic laws have become commandments in today¿s world. One topic that is covered in the book that was very interesting is how the book got its title. According to the Koran, the woman experiences nine-tenths of desire. The men experience only one-tenth of the desire. This goes against Western culture that we all know. Men are supposed to be the lustful ones, usually. Brooks also covers the wife of King Hussein. She talks to her about her momentous change to Islam to marry King Hussein. Queen Nora Hussein tells Brooks that though the decision has lost some of her liberty, that she never regretted it. She devoutly believes that Islam is great religion, though it has problems, that just needs some work to make it perfect. The book also discussed how young women in Iran were forced to become fundamentalists, wear the veil, and change their lives. Though some of the women believed it was for the best, others hated the new change in their life and wished for the return of the Shah who had given Westernized freedom. This book `s thesis is really worth studying. Learning about the Muslim religion is something that many people in our environment have not had the opportunity of doing. So this will help people understand the feelings of fundamentalist Iran or of how women can give up their freedom to wear a veil. The thesis of the book is also convincingly explained. She makes you understand the religion very well by the end of the book. Brooks makes you understand the good and bad of the Muslim religion. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the Muslim religion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2006

    An Islamic Primer

    I found this book extremely informative and readable. Not only does one get an understanding of the genisis of Islamic culture and women but men as well. Westerners need books like this to understand who and what they are dealing with.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2006

    great book

    One of the best books I have ever read. Complete page turner, I couldnt put the book down.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2005

    Great book

    The islamic fate is the most oppressive, non-peaceful religion ever. If Islam doesn't oppress women who does? Why would any woman need permission to drive, work, go to school. Women don't choose to wear the veil as a sign of modesty and submission to God, the need to wear the veil otherswise they get killed. Not to mention that when the rich (whether royalty or private citizen), go abroad to their palaces and villas in some exotic island, they bring western women for their fun (sex fun), and pay them lots of money. You people treat your owm women like slaves at home and treat western women like sex 'slave' abroad, royalty need to have fun.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2003

    One woman's observations on Islamic women

    Nothing in life is un-biased, we view the world and its events and filter them through our own set of values and customs. This book is full of stories and experiences recounted by Brooks. Of course this book will be tinged by her perspective, but she does her best to show the stories as they actually happened. For others to deny these accounts as select extremes is to discount the fact that they actually happened and still happen to this day. In addition, not all the narratives in this book are negative. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it to be very enlightening without being overly judgemental.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2001

    Truly Incredible

    Fantastic portrayal of women (some famous, most unknown) throughout the Muslim world. One comes away with an appreciation of the trememdous variation of treatment and roles of women between different countries and even within some countries. Each chapter is memorable. Would love a sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2001

    Been there, Brooks got it right!

    Of all the imaginative entertaining books sold pretending to be observation of Islam, Brooks is one of a very few to get it right. After 9 11, as the media spins more tales and imaginings, I recommend a reading of this riveting observation through direct experience. A little reality is a breath of fresh air in the very musty reading room on Islam.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2000

    A well written, informative book about women in Muslim countries

    Nine Parts of Desire is a wonderful, easy to understand bookw that talks about women and their lives and social conditions in many Islamic countries. Geraldine Brooks also tells the reader some stories of the prophet Mohammed which add to one's understanding of the issues she presents. it is a fantastic read the i recommened to anyone with the slightest intrest in Islam and women.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Included in the forms of loving protection offered to Muslim wom

    Included in the forms of loving protection offered to Muslim women by fundamentalist religious Muslim men are whipping, stoning, removal or scraping of the clitoris, covert murder, pool drowning, beating, long-term incarceration or confinement, removal of passports and permission to travel unless signed by a male of any age, bizarre cleaning duties, a rule of silence, kicking mothers out of their homes without their children, chronic denial of education and of being seen by men outside their family unit. Women, accused of great lustfulness, are to cover their faces in public to prevent their triggering similar lustfulness in men.

    It's the twists in the stories Geraldine Brooks provides that are so stunning. For example, the activity of Sigheh, or temporary marriage, is believed by fundamentalist Muslim men to be an act of kindness towards Muslim war widows whose intense sexual cravings must be assuaged. It is "good for the children" these men say, to see a responsible male around the house too. But why couldn't such a caring male be fatherly to grieving children and provide alms to a family without adding the sexual component? It's the appropriation of lustfulness to the victim of sexual predation that is so cruel.

    I was particularly impressed that the research for this book was done by the author herself, inside Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Iran and Iraq. The personal anecdotes are complex and layered. I especially appreciate the gentle explanations about the manner in which women become complicit in their own abuse because they do not want to lose their children.

    For all those who are concerned about the Charter of Rights issue in Quebec and whether or not Muslim women should or should not wear a face covering during her work day in Canada, this book is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    Very enlightening and well written

    The role, or lack of it, in Islamic culture as it relates to women. The plight and lack of freedom of basic human rights. From a society like the USA standpoint, looking at education alone, it is so unequale. Males are considered superior in every way and women treated as chattle. It is very depressing to think women can be subjugated in that manner. Ther are small victories included, but most are in the past. The future looks pretty glum.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012

    Fantastic book but dated - read as foundation for further Islamic cultural studies

    I found this book absolutely fascinating. It was a rare insight into the lives of Muslim women from the perspective of a western woman. It is interesting and easy to read. It is, of course, opinionated but if you keep that in mind - that it is one woman's perspective - it is a very useful tool in understanding Islamic life for woman all over the Arabic world. The only problem is that it was written in the mid-nineties, so no 9/11 and no Arab Spring. Nonetheless it has given me a springboard foundation to jump to more contemporary Islamic studies.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Life for women in Islamic countries from the most restrictive to the most liberal.

    As far as a comprehensive look on women living under Islam I have found no better. From the most restrictive (Saudi Arabia) to the most liberal (Egypt) one is presented with a fascinating glimpse of what it must be like to be female and to live in a Middle Eastern world. In Chapter 7 A Queen the author even writes of how an American woman (the former Lisa Halaby now Queen Noor) marries the King of Jordan, converts to Islam then having to face her own challenges adjusting to a slow-to-accept Islamic society. The author also writes of other American women married to Middle Eastern men and living in their respective countries subject to the same type of restrictions other Islamic women have had to face. Already in the Preface of the book I was shocked to learn that the wearing of the Islamic hijab (the veiled attire) for one of the author's colleague's signified "acceptance of a legal code that valued her testimony at half the worth of a man's, an inheritance system that allowed her half the legacy of her brother, a future domestic life in which her husband could beat her if she disobeyed him, make her share her attentions with three more wives, divorce her at whim and get absolute custody of her children." I could not imagine any intelligent, well educated American woman born and raised in a democratic society ever learning to tolerate such injustice. Betty Mahmoody who later wrote her book Not Without My Daughter certainly lived to experience her nightmare "of an American wife who agrees to visit her husband's family in Tehran only to find herself trapped there by Iranian laws that forbid women to leave the country without their husband's permission." Mahmoody's book does indeed "give an unremittingly bleak picture of life in Iran, describing wife beatings, filthy houses and vermin-infested food." In contrast the author writes in Chapter 5 of a certain Janet from Kansas City who "gradually found herself coming to love many aspects of her life in Iran. She found that Iranians lavished affection on the few Americans who stayed. Some Iranians had warm memories of American teachers or technicians who had helped the country while even those who saw Americans only as rapacious exploiters felt that Janet, by staying, had aligned herself with Iran. Instead of being greeted with hostility, she found herself welcomed everywhere--pushed to the front of food lines, given the best meat and helped in every possible way." Yet at the end of this same chapter the story of Margaret, another American born Islamic wife, is highlighted. Her husband accustomed to going on long business trips to America had, instead of taking her for a visit to her parents, chose to leave her behind to do the chores for his mother and sister: " 'My mom's not too pleased' she said. 'She calls up and says, 'You waiting on his relatives again? ' She knows they're working me to death. She wants me to come home.'" Yet, when asked by the author why she had not taken up her mother's advice and go home for a while Margaret "straightened her hunched shoulders and kneaded the small of her back with a clenched fist. 'I can't' she said "My husband doesn't want me to." It was up to him to sign the papers that would allow her to leave the country." How truly sad a scenario!

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