Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

3.7 52
by Geraldine Brooks

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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…  See more details below


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 Desire is the story of Brooks' 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. Defying our stereotypes about the Muslim world, Brooks' acute analysis of the world's fastest growing religion deftly illustrates how Islam's holiest texts have been misused to justify repression of women, and how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once liberating faith.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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.)
Mary Ellen Sullivan
During her six years covering the Middle East for the "Wall Street Journal", Brooks sought to find out how Muslim women feel about their societies' attitudes toward women. What she discovered is sometimes astonishing, sometimes shocking, but always fascinating. Taking on the "hijab" (the Muslim woman's black veil) herself, Brooks talked with women throughout the Islamic world, reexamined the Koran, spent time with fundamentalist and feminist alike, and emerged with a deeper understanding of the religion as one that once empowered but now cripples women. She found, for instance, that Iran is one of the better Islamic countries for women, Saudi Arabia the worst; that the "hijab" can be strangely liberating; that enjoyment of their sexuality is an inherent right for Muslim women; and that to be a feminist under Islam calls for a daily form of courage almost incomprehensible to the Western mind. Brooks is a wonderful writer and thinker; the observations she makes and the conclusions she reaches open both our eyes and our minds to understanding Muslim women anew.
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.”

“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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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Nine Parts of Desire 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 what is the point of this book?
Jannah More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 22 days ago
People in the middle east are just changing religious laws to make themselves happy. In the Qur'an, there are no laws that say women must wear a veil or not drive cars or get beaten! Being a muslim myself, I really hate this.
andiread More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and very informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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