The Others

The Others

by Seba Al-Herz
     
 

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A best-selling book when it appeared in Arabic, The Others is a literary tour de force, offering a window into one of the most repressive societies in the world. Seba al-Herz tells the story of a nameless teenager at a girls' school in the heavily Shi'ite Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Like her classmates, she has no contact with men outside her family. When the…  See more details below

Overview

A best-selling book when it appeared in Arabic, The Others is a literary tour de force, offering a window into one of the most repressive societies in the world. Seba al-Herz tells the story of a nameless teenager at a girls' school in the heavily Shi'ite Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Like her classmates, she has no contact with men outside her family. When the glamorous Dai tries to seduce her, her feelings of guilt are overcome by an overwhelming desire for sexual and emotional intimacy. Dai introduces her to a secret world of lesbian parties, online flirtations, and hotel liaisons—a world in which the thrill of infatuation and the shame of obsession are deeply intertwined. Al-Herz's erotic, dreamlike story of looming personal crisis is a remarkable portrait of hidden lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A rare, mesmerizing journey into the cloistered consciousness of a pious Shi'a university student in Qatif, Saudia Arabia, this controversial bestseller centers on a young woman whose lesbian affairs intensify her religious experience and compound her sense of self-abasement. A sheltered teenager living with her protective mother and studying Islamic jurisprudence at a women's college, the nameless narrator falls into a passionate physical relationship with another student named Dai, who is despotic and fiercely jealous. Given to flights of breathlessly manic description, the narrator depicts her secret shared moments with Dai in ecstatic bursts, all the while exploring Internet homosexual chatrooms and dabbling in flirtations with men and women. Erratically, she reveals details about herself, such as that a health issue has decreased her marriage prospects in a culture where early arranged marriage is the norm (her best friend essentially disappears when she gets engaged); as well, the narrator suffers from the losses of her father and brother. Al-Harez (a pseudonym) harnesses a great deal of a young woman's raw emotion, creating a startling and passionate work. (Apr.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Debut novel offers a rare window into young, lesbian Saudi culture. In the heavily Shi'ite town of Qatif, a nameless teenage girl is tortured by lesbian desires and the urgent pressure she feels to suppress them. The first-person narrator's various lovers introduce her to an underground world of lesbian parties, secret rendezvous and subversive online flirtations. References to modern life, like air conditioners and Google, seem bizarre within the context of a society otherwise locked in a trenchantly traditional past. Many of the websites the narrator searches for are blocked, a striking reminder of how pervasively controlled Saudi life is. Employing very little dialogue (perhaps as a reminder of how voiceless women are in Saudi society), the pseudonymous author casts her lyrical prose almost exclusively in the form of her protagonist's ruminations. The heartbreaking use of words like intoxicated, filth and shame demonstrate beyond any doubt that the narrator believes her behavior is deviant and must be kept secret. There are men in her life: an absent father, a dead brother, a handful of male friends, even male romantic interests. But the dominant characters are female, her mother as well as her lovers. Although the novel provides a fascinating look into the silent half of this closed society, foreign readers will wish the author had explained more about daily life as a Saudi woman: what it's like to cover oneself in an abaya, how it feels to be separated from men in every aspect of daily existence, what they think of the daily "Death to America" radio broadcast from Iran. (Presumably the intended audience is fellow Saudi women who need no explanation of these quotidian elements.) Insome ways, however, the lack of explanations makes the story more powerful. Despite the extreme circumstances, the protagonist's journey of self-discovery and the questions she reflects upon have universal appeal. Poetic, valuable look at the difficulties of being a woman in Saudi Arabia, and of growing up anywhere in the world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781583229392
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

SEBA AL-HERZ is the pseudonym of a twenty-six-year-old Saudi woman from al-Qatif in Saudi Arabia. This is her first novel.

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