Nine Parts of Desire

by Geraldine Brooks | Nonfiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 0385475764 Global Overview for this book
Registered by -Xerxes- on 12/17/2023
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by -Xerxes- on Sunday, December 17, 2023
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.

Journal Entry 2 by -Xerxes- at Port Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Released 3 mos ago (2/4/2024 UTC) at Port Melbourne, Victoria Australia


This is a great book by Geraldine Brooks - a former Middle East correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner for one of her novels - about the experience of Islamic women across the Middle Eastern diaspora, and covers topics like veiling, marriage and polygamy, genital mutilation and social and religious rules about what women can and cannot do.

It presents some interesting commentary about these issues, for instance in reply to the view that keeping women veiled is oppressive and curtails their freedom and agency, a rather cogent argument is that the West is oppressing women more by commoditising their looks and arguably women have even less freedom to be seen as themselves.

On marriage and sexuality it is argued (by some Muslims, not the author) that even though the punishment of stoning (and honour killings) for adultery and having extramarital sex is extreme, the scriptures and teachings allow for a lawful way to enjoy sexual relations, giving women the right to divorce if the husband can’t perform, and even going so far as saying that ‘God created desire in ten parts, and gave nine parts to women’. They suggest they are more tolerant of sexuality than Christian monastic text which is quite puritanical and seems to discourage sexual pleasure. Practically speaking, one can also obtain a sigheh, a temporary marriage in which conditions can be mutually negotiated.

The author suggests that many of the very restrictive religious limitations on women (need to be secluded, covering all body parts etc) were originally created by the Prophet Muhammad to deal with issues amongst his own wives, and have been too broadly interpreted to apply to all women. Likewise, other aspects of the Prophet’s women (eg being in the war, running businesses) have not been permitted to Muslim women. She was shocked to hear a Muslim woman who eventually lived in a Western country and got an education say that she was glad she had been subject to genital mutilation as a child because it made her realise that marriage is not just about pleasure - as well as various other well educated women defending the practices that seem misogynistic to us, suggesting there is something more nuanced in the debate.

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