“Arab Assiminas” by Bassam Al-Rabie is the nineteenth of twenty books in the Arab Women’s Manifold series. It’s more of a feel book than anything else. It’s not that the writer doesn’t try to complicate things, or that she doesn’t like complication, it’s just that there is less complexity here. In short, it’s a chick flick.
What can you say about the life of an extraordinary woman? I’ll give you plenty, and a lot of it has to do with the author being an Arab-American. And while I’m on the subject, did I also learn that Bassam Al-Rabie is an expert on the social implications of women’s fiction, and that she has translated some of the works of Fethiyeh Safi and Nahlaouz Katayeb? Not that either is new, but they are two of the more original (and rich) voices in women’s fiction in the Arab world.
So what actually happens in this book? Well, Al-Rabie presents a vivid portrait of the pressures women face in their daily lives. She profiles the pressure to be perfect in the workplace. The pressure to look good on the outside while being homely on the inside. The pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and to conform to conservative views of sexuality.
There is a subplot about a young woman who marries an older man because he believes she will have children. And that is only half of the tensions at play here. The marriage itself puts women in an impossible position because if sexual relationships outside marriage are considered wrong then what is the right attitude towards sexual relationships within marriage?
What is the proper view of sexuality for an Arab Woman? What does she need to do to be taken seriously in society? What is her relationship with her family? What are her responsibilities towards her husband?
Sex Arab Asimine is a smart and interesting book in many ways. It is candid and realistic. It deals with some tough topics but it also manages to be fun and entertaining.
I think part of what makes this book so successful is the way it approaches women’s issues and questions. It is a very insightful read. Many women will not admit to having a problem. But as the book progresses you realize just how many do. It is very easy to empathize with them. After all the circumstances that they find themselves presented with, there is simply no way to turn a blind eye.
It is also very refreshing to read a book written by an Arab-Lebanese woman. It shows just how different the two cultures can be when a woman’s concerns are respected and when they are not threatened. The author does her utmost to make this book as realistic and as appealing to an American audience as possible. That is why I believe Sex Arab Asimine is such a unique book in the women’s fiction genre.
The premise of the book is that after being raped by a man, Ayesha is determined never to speak about the event to anyone else. She takes the story to her grave. But then a taxi driver, Mufreeh, comes from another country to pay her a visit. She is determined to tell him what happened to her. Mufreeh tells her she has a daughter with an Arab name, and she wanted him to raise that daughter as his own daughter.
Shortly thereafter, Ayesha’s daughter is born. She is beautiful. And while her parents were away at work, she took care of the daughter full-time. She cooked and cleaned and even took care of her mother when she was a toddler. But all of this was not enough to escape a relationship with a man who repeatedly abused her.
So the novel is about Ayesha overcoming her trauma and coming to terms with her own humanity. She accepts her mistakes. She realizes that men do not always deserve the women they are controlling. Her character then experiences the ultimate evil in the book when she realizes that she has to marry a much older man to free herself from the shackles of an unhappy marriage. It’s a touching book with a powerful message.
Sex Arabic is one of the most original and thought-provoking books written about relationships in today’s world. Author Randa Jarrar shares her experience in an easy to read, easy to follow women’s fiction. Jarrar offers up some good advice on how to make your first few years as a wife or girlfriend with your new partner as enjoyable and happy as possible. Reading this book will leave you with some life-changing insights into how to make your life with someone work.