Book Reviews - Stories From Middle East And Asia

I am here with another book review. These are some of the impactful stories I have read lately. My love for non-fiction continues, but this time I have a few fictions to add to the list too. In 2013 I travelled to Dubai, Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) and Doha (Qatar), for a holiday. Right before the trip was even planned, I was reading Princess by Jean Sasson, upon my brother's recommendation. For some reason I was unable to finish it before the trip. After traveling to these exotic and magnificent places I was tempted to know more about their culture, religion, history and politics. So I was able to pick the following books to gain more insight. A few of them are based in countries of the Middle East and some of Asia, as you can tell from the blog post title (duh!), but they have a few similarities. I hope this compilation makes sense, because I do honestly see some similarity, however they are so unique and interesting in their own way.

I would like to add that these reviews are merely my personal opinions on the writings, and I refuse to pass judgments or comments on their culture, religion, history or politics. I always try to keep my reviews brief, as I don't like to read lengthy reviews myself. Everyone has the right to choose and believe in whatever they want, as humans that is our right, and I respect them all. So I hope you enjoy the reviews, and maybe even read one of them and then write back to me with what you thought of them.

"Princess", by Jean Sasson

Genre - Non-fiction
Rating - 4/5 stars

My Review - Jean Sasson is a brilliant writer. I personally messaged her and thanked her for writing this book. Princess Sultana's story is an eye opener. We should be grateful to be born in a culture, society and generation, where we can express ourselves in any way. We are encouraged to choose the way we present ourselves through our choice of clothing, words and professions. But Saudi Arabia, in 1990s, was a different story altogether. I know things have changed for the better in these years. But it was sad to read how so many women let their lives be ruled (like they had a choice!), or they died not knowing things could have been easier and different. I am not a complete religious person, but I know for a fact that Universe did not create us to be discriminated. We choose leaders and governments; so we have law and order in our society and not have someone rule our personal lives. Princess is a part of The Princess Trilogy, and I can't wait to read the other two. With money and wealth comes many restrictions and injustice for women in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia. And when a Princess tells you these stories, it's hard to imagine what the others went through. Some instances of her cousins or close relatives left me in a daze for days. But it was totally worth reading. 

"Mayada: Daughter of Iraq", by Jean Sasson

More about the book here.
Genre - Non-fiction

Rating - 5/5 stars

My Review - Mayada Al Askari's story and time in the prison was painful to read, especially the tortures used on those innocent men and women. She made it out because of her family's links, but the fate of others in Cell 52 (and under the custody of secret police) is still a mystery or had a very tragic end. But each and every story made my heart sad, they touched my soul and I can't help but pray for them. I am so glad that Iraq is now a democracy, not under Saddam's dictatorship. If they wanted to get rid of you, they would frame you in any possible fraud or crime. But besides the happenings during Ba'ath party's leadership, I would like to commend the work of Ms. Sasson. Jean Sasson became one of my favorite writers, after reading Princess, and she continues her magnificent art of story telling even with this book. She is a brave artist and writer, who took the risk of traveling to such grave sights and being the voice of those ladies who had no other medium to reach out to the world with their stories. This is not just another story you’ll read, so I would recommend everyone to read this book, if you are keen to know what went on in Iraq during those years. All I can say is that an entire world was veiled in Iraq. The veil has been lifted respectfully, to let the Iraqis breathe fresh air, for many who can go back home, for the world to have a look at what happened and to heal a holy land that has seen way too much torture. 

Once again, thanks to Jean Sasson’s hard work, for making it possible for us to know Mayada’s story and the story of those that left without a chance. My heart aches, with Mayada, for those that were left behind. I truly hope God was kind to them.

"I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban", by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb

More about the book here.
Genre - Non-fiction

Rating - 3/5 stars

My Review - Malala is a sweet girl, with a very good purpose in her life. I support her cause, because education is the most important aspect of our lives. Like I read in a book a while ago, "Right to Education is derived from the Right to Live." To realize how many are illiterate and ignorant, in this century in my own country, makes me very sad. I always support and praise Educationists and teachers. It is important to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Everyone should be able to read and write. While some of us are in offices or at home, with unlimited access to information and knowledge at our fingertips, there are many who cannot even read time or words. There are people who have laptops and smart phones and know how to access the Web, and so many who don't even know what Internet is. Usually the education that they get, and are sure that's all they need, is at home or in their communities. Many are forced to beg or work in dangerous circumstances, because of their lack of capabilities and understanding. They are underpaid, over worked and manipulated, for the benefits of the read. Education first starts at home, and to have supportive parents is a blessing. Usually the trend suggests, illiterate families lead to illiterate children. And then this follows through in all the generations. I have sensed an understanding, among many poor families, where the parents have encouraged their children to study even when they are illiterate themselves. We need that kind of support for all. What you do with that education is your choice, but to begin with you must have education. It's the only way to find wisdom, in the midst of ignorance. 

Having said that, I rate the book 3/5. Because I support Malala's cause, but couldn't find a connection with her story. I salute her for standing up for education, with the help of her parents, in the dangerous circumstances of her Valley and her country. Our nations, once upon a time, were one. We shared the same land. The undivided India was a beautiful, cultured and a happy land, before the misunderstandings began in the name of the religion and cultures. (Lack of education and understanding on many issues, are to be blamed). However, we also share many concerns. Terrorism, illiteracy, politics, growing population and their many insecurities. What the team of Malala Fund is doing is commendable. I am grateful of their initiative and many such initiatives all over the world. (Including Mrs. Sudha Murty's Infosys foundation.) They are working for a great cause. Her story is great, what happened with her was tragic, and what her family went/is going through is sad. But hasn't she conveyed way many good things about her self? Wasn't it really her dad the one who did all the work? She was merely the one who got targeted and being so young, got all this fame. I would say the real hero was her dad. It is his works, efforts, initiative and inspiration, that made them so famous. When she says good things about herself, and the kind words people use for her, she must realize it's because she is young. That's the reason she got so much attention. It's a good read, but I feel it should have been her dad's story and works, that should have got more attention. Even though Malala does not want to be know as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. This book is really about that. The focus is on how she was targeted and how beautiful her country is. She speaks of random events, which sometime don't relate and have no purpose. I wouldn't blame the author for this, because there really isn't much to tell about her story. May be I interpreted it wrong? But I feel the book was either incomplete, or full of insignificant references from her life.

"Fated To Love", by Qaisra Shahraz

More about the book here.

Genre - Fiction

Rating - 5/5 stars

My Review - This used to be one of my favorites, before I read many others, and have an ever-growing list of favorites. I read this book many years ago, when I had borrowed a copy from my cousin. (I own a copy of it now). I was mesmerized by the culture. Every character was perfectly created and given fair amount of space to grow and impact the story. Being a fiction, it takes you to a beautiful land and creates a soothing story for you to enjoy. The author's story telling will not let you put down the book till you finish it. It's a love story, a story of a woman's determination, a story of a society and the many pressures and challenges that come along the way. It was an unconventional love story for me at that time, and felt like a breathe of fresh air.  

"And The Mountains Echoed", by Khaled Hosseini

More about the book here.

Genre - Fiction

Rating - 5/5 stars

My Review - I haven't cried, reading a book, in a very long time. This story, the characters, emotions, situations, reunion, separation, illness, hurt, longings, all those emotions and feelings, had me in tears at the end of the book. Beautifully crafted scenarios, characters and emotions. Khaled Hosseini's writing is commendable. It is conventional, yet engaging. The description of places and scenes were so well written, I think I just did a world tour, through this book. A must read, if you like reading about people and places. I have no doubt this book is so well loved throughout nations. It is one of a kind. 

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed the reviews. I always try to not give away the stories, for the sake of the readers. I always immediately write the reviews, as soon as I put the book down, so I can share what I am thinking right at that moment. I get too involved in the books and the stories, so I may be harsh at times but my intentions are good. Either I love a book or I simply dislike them. The length of the reviews has nothing to do with that. For now I am going to continue reviewing the ones that I like. :)

PS: Currently Reading - "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande.

Next Up is - "The Last Lecture", by Randy Pausch.

Love & Peace



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