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LaGuardia Library Book of the Week: Excellent Daughters

Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World, by Katherine Zoepf

Hallelujah Anyway

“Zoepf, a journalist who has covered the Middle East for the New York Times, fluidly merges memoir with reportage while showing the Arab world from a unique perspective: that of an American woman who managed to win uncommonly intimate access to urban Muslim women in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates between 2004 and 2011. Zoepf's Arabic, along with her "glimpses behind [the] closed doors" of women's spaces, lends authority to her lucid accounts of Islamic history, practices, and controversies. Though she covers some widely publicized events, such as the 2007 "honor killing" of a Damascus woman and the 1990 protests in which Riyadh women defied Saudi law by driving cars, her focus is on day-to-day aspects of women's lives: the showfa (the "viewing," literally, of a newly engaged Saudi woman), the hijab, the Qubaisiate (a fundamentalist women's prayer group), the difficulties of finding employment, and the obsession with female chastity (including forcible "virginity testing"). Mindful that "strange as I'd found it at first, life in this women-only world must have its own consolations," her work acknowledges that some women accept and find value in strict traditional mores. In her absorbing, window-opening book, Zoepf reveals the variety of women's lives and interests away from political headlines and conventional stereotypes, and their power, often by small steps, to transform their world.”

- "Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of the Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World." Publishers Weekly, 12 Oct. 2015, p. 56+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A435387824/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=AONE&xid=bcde93fc.

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