Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

by Geraldine Brooks


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INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER - Pulitzer Prize winning author presents the stories of a wide range of Muslim women in the Middle East. As an Australian American and an experienced foreign correspondent, Brooks' thoughtful analysis attempts to understand the precarious status of women in the wake of Islamic fundamentalism.

"Frank, enraging, and captivating." - The New York Times

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385475778
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1995
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 152,213
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Marchand the international bestsellers Caleb’s CrossingPeople of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Christianity TodayBook Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz. This is her first book.

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Nine Parts of Desire 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 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.
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good read; fascinating, in fact!
EAG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. A fascinating glimpse into Muslim women's lives that is devastating in its implications vis-à-vis the status of women in the Middle East. Although written over 15 years ago, I suspect it remains as valid an account as ever of the repressions faced by women wherever Islamic fundamentalism has taken root. While cognizant throughout her journeys that her outsider status (privileged, white, American, and a convert to Judaism) imposes limits on what she can witness as well as envisage, author and prize-winning foreign correspondent Geraldine Brooks nevertheless manages to provide a penetrating analysis into the status of women under Islam. As a journalist, her strength is obviously her reportage, which manages to succinctly capture the essence of lived lives, whether those of presidential wives or guerrilla fighters. But she also pulls no punches in stating the obvious. While forces such as colonialism and pre-Islamic cultural traditions likely contributed to current misogynistic attitudes and practices in Muslim countries, she does not hesitate to say that the Islamic faith itself is complicit. It is worth quoting at length from her concluding chapter:In the end, what [progressive Muslim scholars] are proposing is as artificial an exercise as that proposed by the Marxists who used to argue that socialism in its pure form should not be maligned and rejected because of the deficiencies of "actually existing socialism." At some point every religion, especially one that purports to encompass a complete way of life and system of government, has to be called to account for the kind of life it offers the people in the lands where it predominates.It becomes insufficient to look at Islam on paper, or Islam in history, and dwell on the inarguable improvements it brought to women¿s lives in the seventh century. Today, the much more urgent and relevant task is to examine the way the faith has proved such fertile ground for almost every antiwomen custom it encountered in its great march out of Arabia. When it found veils and seclusion in Persia, it absorbed them; when it found genital mutilations in Egypt, it absorbed them; when it found societies in which women had never had a voice in public affairs, its own traditions of lively women¿s participation withered.Once I began working on this book, I looked everywhere for examples of women trying to reclaim Islam¿s positive messages, trying to carry forward into the twentieth century the reformist zeal with which Muhammad had remade the lives of many women in the first Muslim community at Medina. It turned out to be a frustrating search. In most places the direction of the debate seemed to be exactly the reverse. Palestinian, Egyptian, Algerian and Afghani women were seeing a curtain come down on decades of women¿s liberation as Islamic leaders in their countries turned to the most exclusionary and inequitable interpretations. For those women who struggled against the tide, the results were a discouraging trio of marginalization, harassment and exile.Read this book in conjunction with Haideh Moghissi¿s Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis for a powerful condemnation of religious, political and academic myopia.
Heatherreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My only criticism is that the book purports to be about women in the Muslim world, but the focus is almost entirely on Middle Eastern countries. I wonder how much of what she discusses is based on Islam and how much based on Arab/central Asian cultures.
LyzzyBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Bookcrossing, 09 October 2011)A very worthwhile book that takes a deep and personal look at the hidden and often surprising world of Islamic women from different countries and regimes. The parts examining the basis of some of the rules and regulations in everyday life when the Koran and Hadiths were put together are very interesting. But however valuable it is as a historical document, it has become just that, in my opinion, as it was published in 1995 and worked very much in terms of a coverage of current issues, so it is rather outdated now. A shame, as a lot of effort clearly went into it. One can't help but wonder what became of the women featured in this book.
tulikangaroo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating first-hand perspective on women in Islam. Along with the author, I struggled throughout with the line between culture and human rights - it's pretty blurry, and I appreciate her effort to separate out what is in the Koran and Mohammed's true intent from what has evolved in interaction with various Islamic cultures. Educational, well-written, and thought-provoking.
alittlebreeze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Brooks spent seven years in the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, covering 20 countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Jordan, against a backdrop of the Gulf War. As a woman, Brooks is able to go behind the veil to experience firsthand the life of Islamic women, and as a westerner, she is able to speak with the men who oppress them.But it's not as simple as that. The further Brooks delves into the world of Islam and where women fit in, the more stereotypes are defied. There are the women who do what they can for women's rights, like Jordan's Queen Noor, but there are also those who welcome opression, like Brooks' Egyptian assistant, who, after many years of concerning herself with fashion and her career, makes the decision to veil before her marriage, and grows more and more devout.This book was certainly eye-opening ( it desperately needs an afterword regarding the Middle East today, given all that has happened in the last ten years), and introduced me to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and the way texts like the Koran have been misued to set women's rights back centuries.An illuminating read, and definitely recommend for anyone who would like a greater understanding of the role women play in a part of the world that is so frequently misrepresented in order to create a culture of fear and paranoia.
kipp15 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books about the ordinary women in islamic countries. My favorite part was about the "liberated" women in Iran where so long an activity or event is segregated by sex, women can do. Who knew?
Grogotte on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brooks uses the first person throughout the book to discuss the lives of (primarily) contemporary women in Islamic countries, and her relationship with them. She discusses dress, sex, dancing, marriage, careers, the military, sports, and politics, as well of course as gender relations at both the macro and micro levels. She shares the findings resulting from her explorations and the ensuing reflections, her hopes, her fears, her angers, and her own doubts. I admire her reporting, which comes across as very honest as well as heartfelt. In the conclusion, Brooks writes what I find to be a fitting summary of the book: "Once I began working on this book, I looked everywhere for examples of women trying to reclaim Islam's positive messages, trying to carry forward into the twentieth century the reformist zeal with which Muhammad had remade [note of the reviewer: for the better] the lives of many women (...) in the first Muslim community at Medina. It turned out to be a frustrating search. In most places the direction of the debate seemed to be exactly the reverse. Palestinian, Egyptian, Algerian and Afghani women were seeing a curtain come down on decades of women's liberation as Islamic leaders in their countries turned to the most exclusionary and inequitable interpretations. For those women who struggled against the tide, the results were a discouraging trio of marginalization, harassment and exile." (p. 232 of the recent edition with an afterword, in paperback - can't find a trace of the year which is bizarre). Fifteen years after the book was first published, I gather no sign that the situation has improved, and am afraid that if it's out of date, it's not in the way I would have liked it to be.I enjoyed her writing, which I think on the whole was careful considering the difficulty of addressing such a deeply angering topic. I think she made wise choices in both researching and narrating the book. She must have often felt like she was walking a very thin line when reporting information from her sources, and considering the difficulties of the task I think it is very well done. The only criticism I would make of the book is the lack of clarification about the scope from the beginning. I can now see that she wrote primarily about Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, countries where she conducted the research and experienced womanhood herself. These are important countries, but by no means the only ones in the Muslim world, or even the more narrowly defined "Islamic" world. This is fine - one could not write a first-person book about the entire Muslim world - but I think that the implications of this limited scope should have been discussed in the introduction.I am perhaps a little disappointed at the fact that Brooks offers a rich description, some analysis, and little interpretation of the situation, but this would be an unfair criticism. Brooks is a journalist, not a scholar, and as noted above her relationship with her sources would have made such writing very difficult. However, I hope that readers who might be wondering why women remain perceived as property rather than persons in many cultures and political regimes (not only those she describes), and why some consider that women should be so tightly controlled, will have to seek other books. The book also offers a good opportunity to think about moral relativism: what should I acknowledge as a cultural difference to be respected, and what do I consider unacceptable? Despite being, to a large extent, a very open-minded relativist, I maintain that human life and integrity is to be respected, and that no person (male, female, or somewhere in between) can be treated as another one's property. Thus I conclude that my anger at many of the situations reported by Brooks - and at countless others I am aware of in my own country and elsewhere - is legitimate. I only wish I had a hint or two about what to do now.
nittnut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fascinating narrative of Geraldine Brooks' time working as a reporter in the middle east. Her treatment of Islam seems fairly balanced, she is careful to point out the differences between culture and religion, but does not underestimate the power of the fundamentalist factions. I totally agree with her assessment of Saudi Arabia - that it is more dangerous than some of the other Middle Eastern governments we tend to be suspicious of. Although this book was written 15 years ago, there are many insights that are applicable now. Worth a read.
Booksnyc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks is the story of the author's journey through the Middle East as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and her examination of Middle Eastern women and the cultural, religious and political influences which shape their lives. In each Middle Eastern country, she befriends and interviews women who tell their stories and describe their experiences living under the laws of their countries and within the requirements of their religion (often one and the same).Brooks tells the story of a variety of women - poor and uneducated, highly educated, western converts to Islam, royalty, political figures and from a variety of Middle Eastern countries. I found the story of Asya, a recent graduate of Gaza University particularly compelling. Asya, a 29 year old unmarried woman who worked as journalist's assistant and breadwinner for her family, also adhered strictly to the laws of her religion and maintained a life segregated from men and shrouded in hijab. She struggled to find a husband (ok - I can relate to that!) who she could dialogue with and who, while respecting the requirements of their Islamic religion, would also respect her intellect and education. As much as I support and believe in the power of education to overcome injustices and ignorance, it seems almost unfair to educate women in countries where they are often restricted from using that education and many times not respected for their intellect. The author provides an update on Asya (and some of the other women) in the afterword to the book which appears on her website.I thought this book was very well done and it certainly educated me on the variety of practices within Muslim countries and their impact on its women. Brooks expertly weaved excerpts from te Koran throughout the book and tried to dispute how some fundamentalists had misused the holy text to justify severe restrictions on women. She explores the teaching of Mohammed in an effort to distinguish between his teachings, generally allowing much more equality for women, and those of the more conservative political powers within many Middle Eastern countries. I appreciated the references to the Koran as is helped to substantiate the author's position that many of the oppressive practices enforced in these countries are, in fact, not mandated by the Koran. In addition, it emphasizes that the religion of Islam itself is not to blame for the violation of women's rights and other extremist views but rather the politicization of Islamic religion which has fueled fundamentalist extremism.This book was written in 1995, and while reading it, I wondered how relevant its explanations of cultural and political influences still were 15 years later. I came the conclusion that in many cases things have likely gotten worse for women in these countries with the move towards a more conservative states which required strict adherence to Islamic law. Brooks seems to have done an excellent job of predicting to spread of fundamentalism throughout the Middle East. The afterword that appears on her website is written in following the terrorist attacks on 2001 - after reading this book, I found her perspective on this event interesting.If you are looking for an introduction to the Muslim religion as it is practiced throughout the Middle East and its impact on women and their rights within those countries, I would recommend this book. It reads like a memoir, not a textbook, and artfully weaves stories of women with explanations of the Koran and the political forces at play within the Middle East. Excellent!
mysteena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me much longer than usual to finish this book. Initially, I thought the slow going was due to the fact that it's non-fiction and I'm a bit of a fiction addict. Still, that didn't quite explain it because it was easy and fascinating reading. I finally decided it was the subject matter that made me reticent to cuddle up with the book and read for hours on end. Nine Parts of Desire is about what it means to be a woman in the Muslim world. I felt Geraldine Brooks did an amazing job writing (as always) and I appreciate that she included so many scriptures from the Koran as well as other Islamic anecdotes that explain why certain traditions have developed over the generations. I learned so much from this book about the history and culture(s) of Islam, the history of the Middle East and the situations Islamic women face. The book is a bit dated, given how quickly things in the middle east change (or maybe it's not dated at all because things stay the same there for generations) but I still found it quite valuable. However, one thought kept coming into my mind over and over again as I read it: How accurate is her portrayal? Yes, she spent years and years there, and yes, she seems quite open minded and willing to look for the good wherever it might be found. But can she, a white Judeo-Christian woman, really give readers an accurate picture? The truths she reveals, are these the truths as viewed by Islamic women? I found myself wanting to read a book written by an Islamic woman to see how her thoughts compared with Brooks. Fortunately, at the end of Nine Parts, Brooks includes a very comprehensive bibliography for those (like me) who wish to read more. Several of the books listed are authored by Islamic women.
Sovranty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book does an excellent job of reminding the reader that there are separate countries, and thus separate religious interpretations and customs, within the Middle East. Being 15+-years-old, this book is a great "catch up to the now" for anyone looking for a more complete understanding of the Middle East and the Muslim religion as a whole, as it tracks the historical changes, adaptations, and tolerances of the religion within the different regions.
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting and readable account of one woman¿s time as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. Brooks was based in this part of the world for a number of years from 1987, and this book was published in 1995. The subject matter (`the hidden world of Islamic women¿) is perhaps bound to create controversy, and reviewers appear to differ in their opinions of the objectivity and accuracy of the book¿s content. On the plus side, I felt that it opened my eyes further to the variety and diversity of experiences of Muslim women. I'm glad I read the book, and I acknowledge that it would be difficult if not impossible to cover this material in an entirely impartial and objective fashion. My preference would have been for more about the experiences, opinions and world views of the women Brooks was interviewing, and less of her own opinions, judgements and occasional editorialising about what she saw and experienced - although this is a personal preference and not necessarily a criticism of the book. On the negative side, I found the tone a little harsh (bordering on snarky at times: ¿I couldn¿t check myself into a Saudi hotel room in the 1990s because thirteen hundred years earlier a Meccan named Muhammad had trouble with his wives¿, p. 3), and felt there were some biases in terms of the content. Overall, I'm glad I read this, but I would want to temper some of its conclusions with further reading/ research.