Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

4.2 264
by Jean Sasson
     
 

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Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is

Overview

Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband, her sons, and her country.Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the king. For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She must hide her identity for fear that the religous leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her honesty. Only a woman in her position could possibly hope to escape from being revealed and punished, despite her cloak and anonymity.Sultana tells of her own life, from her turbulent childhood to her arranged marriage—a happy one until her husband decided to displace her by taking a second wife—and of the lives of her sisters, her friends and her servants. Although they share affection, confidences and an easy camaraderie within the confines of the women's quarters, they also share a history of appaling oppressions, everyday occurrences that in any other culture would be seen as shocking human rights violations; thirteen-year-old girls forced to marry men five times their age, young women killed by drowning, stoning, or isolation in the women's room, a padded, windowless cell where women are confined with neither light nor conversation until death claims them.By speaking out, Sultana risks bringing the wrath of the Saudi establishment upon her head and te heads of her children. But by telling her story to Jean Sasson, Sultana has allowed us to see beyond the veils of this secret society, to the heart of a nation where sex, money, and power reign supreme.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this consistently gripping work, the American-born Sasson (The Rape of Kuwait) recounts the life story of a Saudi princess she met while living in Saudi Arabia. The pseudonymous Sultana is a niece of King Faisal. Her father had four wives and a palace for each of them. Her older sister was circumcised before a "modern" doctor intervened on behalf of Sultana and her eight other sisters; their father treated all 10 as breeding animals, useless until old enough to be married off and to produce sons for their husbands. One sister, wed to a 62-year-old sexual sadist, attempted suicide. Sultana, the family's rebel, had the luck to marry a man who valued her spirit and intelligence. Yet when, after bearing five children, she could bear no more, he prepared to take another wife; Sultana fought this, as she had fought every other injustice and indignity her culture inflicted on her. In Sasson's telling, Sultana's story is a fast-paced, enthralling drama, rich in detail about the daily lives of the Saudi royals and packed with vivid personal sketches of the ruling clan and sharp opinions about the sexual mores, politics, religion and culture of this still-feudal nation. An appalling glimpse of the conditions endured by even such privileged women as the attractive, well-born Sultana. Photos not seen by PW . First serial to Cosmopolitan; Literary Guild alternate; author tour. ( Sept. )
Library Journal
One must keep in mind the context of time and place when reading this emotional and exciting book to alleviate some of the horror of the injustices endured by the women described here. Equality of men and women has not worked out in any society, but the status of women in Islam is more problematic in that canon law is applied according to the social climate. Consequently, countries influenced by the West, such as Egypt, are more relaxed than countries like Saudi Arabia that are ruled by strict Hanbali law, which subjects women to unwelcome marriages, execution at whim, and the boredom of purdah . In this book, Sasson ( The Rape of Kuwait , Knightsbridge Pub. Co., 1991) tells the fascinating story of ``Sultana,'' an unidentified Saudi princess who yearns for recognition in her own right, not as an adjunct of men. For those who wish to know more, Soraya Altorki's Women in Saudi Arabia ( LJ 1/86) and Paryeen Shaukat Ali's Status of Women in the Muslim World (Aziz Pub., 1975. o.p.) are good. Recommended for popular collections. (Illustrations not seen.) Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.-- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville
Denise Perry Donavin
Sasson was asked by a friend, a member of the Saudi royal family, to write this candid depiction of her life. Princess Sultana (a pseudonym, although how her identity can be kept secret when so many specific details of her life are spelled out is a mystery) is a woman who since birth has been surrounded by monumental wealth yet has lived under barbaric socioreligious constraints. Many have heard or read of the veils worn by Saudi women, their arranged marriages, and even their executions for moral missteps--such as being raped by family members. Sasson's first-person narrative puts the whole nightmarish experience into perspective. Sultana has divulged how her existence as a female was disdained from earliest childhood by her taunting brother and contemptuous father. She spells out the horror stories of her sister's forced marriage as the fourth wife of an abusive older man, of a friend's lifetime confinement in a dark attic room for falling in love with a westerner while studying in London, of her sister's maiming circumcision, and of countless other acts supposedly justified by religious tradition but actually intended to maintain male dominion over Saudi women. Throughout, the princess's feisty spirit is the book's saving feature. Her conniving and arrogant refusal to conform to this system are marvelous yet heart-breaking to behold. Human rights, not solely women's rights, are at issue here.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780613293259
Publisher:
San Val, Incorporated
Publication date:
09/28/1993
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

Betty Mahmoody
Heart-wrenching…the issues addressed by this admirably courageous woman stay with the reader long after the story is finished.
—(Betty Mahmoody, author of Not Without My Daughter)

Meet the Author

Jean Sasson was born in the small town of Louisville, Alabama. As a child, she was fascinated by stories of countries and cultures different from her own. This curiosity continued into her adult years, ultimately propelling her to find work in a foreign country. In 1978, she took a job as an administrator coordinator of the King

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Princess 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 263 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good but I'm kind of disappointed in the way it portrays all middle eastern women as opressed and being forced to cover. I am a 15 year old arab girl who is a practicing muslim. I wear the traditional head covering and I was not forced to wear it as most people might think; i chose to wear it myself. The story of Princess sultana is heartbreaking but i know many Saudi women who have had wonderful childhoods and haven't been forced to marry. There are many independent Saudi women who are doctors, lawyers, and are very educated and not at all opressed by their husbands or fathers or brothers. I think this book stereotypes all Saudi men as arrogant and inhumane. Don't get me wrong, there are some men that treat women as described in Princess Sultana's biography. This book also does not show the true face of Islam which teaches its followers to respect women. Nevertheless, the story of Sultana is heartbreaking and I can't begin to imagine how painful it must have been for her. For anyone who reads this, please remember this is the story of one woman, not all have been put through what this woman has gone through.
jaydeeJR More than 1 year ago
This is a great and very insightful book, at times disturbing and sad but it is a book that makes you grateful for the freedom we have and touched by the bravery of other women who are not as fortunate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be so enlightening. It shows you about the Religion of Islam and gives you a sight on the horrible daily life of some middle eastern women, no matter if they are royal are not. Some parts were upsetting; some were very interesting. Overall, this book was great! I recommend it to everyone who's interested in learning more about the Middle East or anyone who's interested in women's rights. Very inspirational.
CycloneFan9 More than 1 year ago
This subject is so interesting. Not just about Arabian women, but about Arabian male mentality as well. It really makes you think about how valuable freedom and education are - much more valuable than having plenty of stuff. This book is well written, and offers an interesting description of what having extreme wealth and oppression is like. A look into an amazing culture who seem to have little regard for people, except for prized sons. I really want to read the sequels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will not be able to put this book down. PLEASE READ if you are considering buying this book. It is amazing to learn what people in other countries/different religions have to go through. Knowledge is power!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great ..im not that much of a reader but when i read this book i just could'nt put it down. I would be in class reading ..in hallways reading..did'nt matter were I was I would still be reading. I recommend this book to all Muslim girls and women.Im muslim myself and this book really inspired me to open my mind.
MOVANA More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT BOOK. I RECOMMEND IT HIGHLY
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful, quick read. It will make you mad as hell, and at times you'll find yourself laughing out loud at Sultana, the Arabian Huckleberry Finn. I am concerned about the legitimacy of the authors claim that this is an autobiography of a Princess as told to the author. There is so much detail that it seems the princess would easily be found out by the Evil Religious leaders. This book reminded me a lot of Memoirs of a Geisha. I believe it was painstakingly researched and that it paints a true picture, but is far from being biographical.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Non Fiction book, Princess, written by Jean Sasson, illustrates the harsh life of an upper-class Saudi Arabian woman, Princess Sultana. Men control the Saudi culture and treat women, no matter their social status, without respect. Throughout Sultana¿s turbulent life, her spirit never wavers as she struggles to break free from the invisible bonds that bind her to her culture. Sultana discovers that the only way to succeed is to never give up, and this becomes the main theme of Princess. I loved reading this book because it made me focus on the fact that American women are free to be independent and should not take their lives for granted. Princess sheds light on the horrible treatment of women and even young girls in different countries. Sultana witnesses this during a vacation with some relatives in Cairo. One afternoon, she returns home to find her older brother and his friend ¿raping a young girl, no more than eight years old (78).¿ It later becomes clear that the girl¿s mother brought her daughter to the house in exchange for money. Sultana learns that her brother sees nothing wrong in his behavior and that their father behaved similarly when he came to Cairo. For the first time, Sultana suspects that all men are evil. I particularly like the parts of this book when Sultana displays her cleverness. For example, when Sultana learns that her husband-to-be wishes to meet her, she formulates a plan. If she finds this man suitable, she will be charming and well-mannered. However, if she does not like him, she will be rude. In this way, Sultana cleverly controls the outcome of the meeting. Later in the story, Sultana prevents her husband from taking another wife by escaping with her children to Paris. She hides there until he becomes crazy with worry, ultimately accomplishing her goal. This book emphasizes the inequality between men and women in Saudi Arabia. The culture regards women solely as objects of pleasure or as bearers of treasured sons. The Saudi women have almost no say in their lives and must bear the wrath of brothers, fathers, and husbands. When a friend of Sultana¿s is forced to marry, she resists her husband but discloses that she had had a Western lover. Her male relatives punish her by imprisoning her in a windowless room where she will have to stay until she dies. The treatment Saudi women receive is somewhat similar to the treatment of slaves in countries like our own. The Saudi women have no choice but to obey the command of males, just as slaves have to obey their masters. If the women rebel, they must pay a painful price. After reading Princess, I particularly appreciate that women in America have the same opportunities as men and are viewed as equals and with respect. All in all, Princess has made me value my life all the more, and I am extremely glad I read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is truly a one of a kind. The author has smuggled the diary of a real life Princess out of the country ...the Princess is in fear of her life if found out by her family. ...wonderful reading!! I could not put it down...I love the 2nd one too
Guest More than 1 year ago
i couldn't put the book down. not only was the book entertaining and captivated my full attention, but it was very informative. i learned much about the life of saudis and the islamic culture. i had to order the other 2 books in the series right away before i finished this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a very sad one and very heart touching one it also gives us info that someone is in need so please read this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only a 7th grader yet this book is opening me and my fellow classmates'eyes about the real world and how lucky we are and less fortunate some people are the world is very cruel to some. As you read this book you really get into it and grow mature and sensitive towards others I encourage you to read this book!!!!!!!!!!!
KittyKatMS More than 1 year ago
This is a book that everyone, especially women, should read. It makes a deep and lasting impression that you won't soon forget. An eye-opening nonfiction account of life as a Saudi Princess that will dispel any preconceived notions you might have. Riveting.....I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a little out of date, but definitely and eye opener to the day to day terror that some women in the world experience. The story of a Saudi Arabian princess is told to reveal injustice toward women. This includes women of the royal family and women who are brought in as domestic help from other countries. I like the fact that this is addressed as a cultural issue and not a religious issue by the storyteller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is simply breathtaking; the narration as well as the events is unbelieveable. I find it hard to imagine that such a world exsists. However, I am truly greatful that she had the guts to tell her story. Amazing. Read this book.
8688cbdb More than 1 year ago
It was such a revelation to hear what torture women still endure in this "modern" age. Every woman should read this.
Betsy Nelson More than 1 year ago
I bought this book in Turkey while I was living there. It is a wonderful read and I have lent it to many friends. Having read it in about 1997, and prior to our deep involvement now in Iraq and Afghanistan, it helps bring to light the plight that young women in those closed societies have to deal with. It is one of my favorite non fiction reads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, heart-wrenching, book that's hard to put down. I've read it multiple times!
13cats More than 1 year ago
such a necessary way to help people understand more about the treatment of women in the middle east, most specifically saudi arabia.
Guest More than 1 year ago
you certainly don't have to be female or liberal to be taken aback by this tale, since i am neither. i don't know if anything has changed since this was written, or if it ever will. the saudis have the oil and the money to ignore pressure from outside their kingdom. as bad as the royal family is, if they were overthrown by extremists, it would probably be worse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable!! You have to read this book. How even to this day not only women but young girls are abused by their husbands and fathers because one sole reason 'they are females'... I'm pretty sure that the Koran doesn't say that women should be abused and treated like animals. I wonder when would this STOP!! Can't wait to read the other two books
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books on women's issues I have ever read! I look forward to readin the rest in this series and others like them. You realize how far women still need to go. Also you see how men have an unprecedented need to control women and do so 'in the name of religion'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading the book 'Princess.' It was required reading in my Women's Literature class and I was immediately sucked in..the whole class was! You will read some disturbing things that open your mind to the culture and men of Saudi Arabia: anyone and everyone should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. It made me greatly appreciate my freedoms as a woman in the United States. The book was so well written that at times, i felt as if I was standing next to Sultana witnessing her life. This book made me experience emotions such as anger, sadness, sympathy, exuberance, curiosity, and much more. It has become one of my favorite books!