Before we get into the book, I'd like to bring up something you may or may not have noticed as it occurred while we were voting on which book to read.
The majority of the time, I can easily Google whether authors are native to a particular country & whether they've spent a lot of time there. When I can't, I try other means. This was the case with Mia's suggestion of HWJN when I had to reach out to the publishing company. To my delight, the translator for the book (Yasser Bahjatt) emailed me back letting me know his background (born in the US & then has been in Saudi Arabia since the age of 6; given minor credit as a secondary author for his contributions to HWJN) as well as the author's background (born in Saudi Arabia & lived there his entire life). Clearly, this book met our criteria so I included it in the list of 6 books on which the book club would vote.
Since the book description on Amazon was a little confusing, I re-wrote it for our web site & told Yasser I did so recommending that changes be made on Amazon as well. As an aside, I said he was welcome to use what I wrote. Frankly, I didn't think he would take me up on it. But he did! And then insisted upon including my name at the end of the Amazon description. (This was done about halfway through our voting. So now any English version you see shows my name.)
I am beyond thrilled to now be officially associated in my own small way with the Saudi book, HWJN translated into English.
I also found out that Yasser has written a book of his own—the Arabic cover of which is shown at the beginning of this post with the English version included here. Eagle eyes will note that the covers are reversed which I think is a clever play on the fact that Arabic is written from right to left & English is written left to right. Either way, this alternative history novel is available for free on most Kindle Unlimited plans if you're interested.
So What Saudi Book are We Reading?
This month, there was a clear winner as shown below. The comments from many of you were fun to read with notes saying you loved the Saudi flag facts I randomly included. (Aww, shucks!) A number of you also noted that you found HWJN interesting, but wanted to read regular fiction since we had just read some sci fi with the Israeli selection. Others noted that they planned on reading all of the Saudi books which is always lovely to hear. Regardless, there can only be 1 winner & that winning book is...
"A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.
Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.
Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard."