Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women 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. 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.”
“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)
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Auto-ethnography and good research
I've listened to this book several times and found something new in each re-telling. It's powerful because much of the book is drawn from Ms Brooks' own experience, then it's coupled with some excellent research of the context. So the book has strong credibility. She's not judgemental in the telling - it's a finely drawn balance of experience, what others say, her opinion, and giving the other side of the story. Well done on this one!
The discussion about female genital mutilation, the clear assertion that this has nothing to do with Islam (which I knew - it's also practiced in other communities, includeing some christian communities; it's more a cultural practice). But it was Ms Brooks' lived experience in many islamic countries that makes the book memorable. Her descriptions of the 'unveiling' of women - their private lives.
I found I wanted to tap into this book at intervals. It was thought-provoking, so needed some 'soak time' to enable me to digest the messages.
Good on Ms Brooks reading her own book. Given it's her story that's appropriate. She's not the best narrator in the universe, but does a very reasonable job. Knowing it was her voice delivering her story and her message gives the book additional credibility in this audio version.
I would read this again.
I love Geraldine Brooks. I read "Year of Wonders" and was hooked on this author. She is also the narrator in that book as well. Geraldine is a superb author and, quite frankly, her voice soothes me. It does. I learned much about Islam and the dark under belly of that religion, but also the lives of women in the Middle East. Geraldine is my favorite author to day
- Nancy L. Collins