American Chick in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
Source: Review copy from publisher
It all begins with an ad in the newspaper. When Jean Sasson, a young Southern woman, answers a call to work in the royal hospital in Saudi Arabia, what should have been a two-year stay turns into a life-changing adventure spanning over a decade. Jean is plunged into the hidden lives of the veiled women in Riyadh, where women are locked in luxurious homes and fundamentalist mutawas terrorize the streets. Jean meets women from all walks of life–a feisty bedouin, an educated mother, and a conservative wife of a high-ranking Saudi–all who open a window into Saudi culture. What follows is a heartfelt, inspiring memoir about Jean’s new-found conviction to fight for women’s rights in a country of limited personal freedom.
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I requested a review copy of AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA because I thought it sounded absolutely intriguing. I didn’t realize that Jean Sasson had written so much on Middle Eastern women and life in the Middle East but I really wanted to learn more about what it was like to be a North American blonde moving to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.
AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA is a vignette, more than anything else, into Jean Sasson’s life. It’s a novella-length recounting of some of her personal experiences after moving to the country. The author discusses how she felt about the role of women in Saudi society and how it clashed with her own views as an adventurous, liberated white American. On the whole, I enjoyed reading about her experiences, but I did find myself wondering at her naiveté at certain points in the narrative. Of course, it’s hard for me to put myself 100% in her shoes because she was living this radical experience 40 years ago, when the culture clash was newer and the world was a lot less of a global village. A woman moving today would have some different experiences, but some would remain the same, if what my Saudi friend tells me is true. 🙂
This little window into Jean Sasson’s life has gotten me intrigued and I intend to borrow her books from the library. Her writing style is very accessible and her friendly, open personality shines through on every page. I can’t wait to discover her other works.
This book was one of the many titles on my NetGalley Knockout list.
Thanks, as always, to Christen of Goldilox and the Three Weres for hosting this challenge.