Thursday, December 29, 2011

Books We Girls Buy in Oman: The "Princess" trilogy by Jean Sasson

Trilogy reviewed by OPNO:

The MOST popular chick litt purchase for bored expat wives in Muscat, no doubt, the "Princess" trilogy by American author, Jean Sasson, promises to be a "true" story of life inside the Sa'ud Royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

If you are a biography girl, or love true life stories, then this book IS NOT for you.

Jean Sasson, who worked as a nurse in the Kingdom, claims she got the go-ahead to be a ghost writer of the story from a privalleged but suppressed Saudi Princess who wanted the world to know about the woesome life of Saudi women, even the state's royalty.

A lawsuit from another expat woman who was married into a rich Kuwaiti family tells otherwise, since her memoirs, scooped up/stolen by Sasson's publishers----and written much earlier than the "Princess" series, bear striking resemblances to the life of the fictional "Sultana" who is the protagonist of Sasson's works. Since I had a good look at this lawsuit and the memoirs online [someone feel free to post the link if you have it saved on your desktop] the resemblances are too many to be coincidence.

Since it is NOT the true life story of a "Desert Royale", but a highly embellished tale based upon the stolen memoirs of a glamorous divorcee once married into an extroidinarily wealthy Kuwaiti family, I read it as such. It is a fast and enjoyable story. And since I have many friends who worked as nurses to the Royal Family in the Kingdom who note that "had ever a princess been drowned by her father in the swimming pool of their villa it would have been common knowledge in Riyadh".

That aside, there are some truth in the oriental extravagance of Sasson's emblishments, such as the use of young child prostitutes sold by their own Egyptian parents to young Saudi princes in Cairo. Many of the same issues affecting a Kuwaiti woman who converted to Islam just to marry her handsome Arab business man would affect a Saudi Princess, and your average Omani girl too, should she have a hypocritical irreligious/immoral family.

The book IS an Orientalist's romp through the sexual fantasies of slaves, buying and selling maids for sex, marrying multiple wives and divorcing some to make way for younger prettier versions ect, and honour killings, all issues I am sure that have occured in Arab society, but on the scale and sequence of Sasson's books it was really too much for me to find even remotely plausible, even for the Sa'ud's.

All wildly entertaining, but shameful when marketed all as a true story, which would have been an incredible tale of survival of the human spirit otherwise, I give it that.

The series follows the life of Sultana, a Saudi Princess with a womanizing father, an evil brother, and a weak husband, and the lives of those women around her, including her sisters and daughters. As a story, it is an entertaining and quick read, with none of the honesty and slow bits and parts of a true biography. If you don't mind a bit of graphic sexuality such as a bunch of young virgins sacrificed in temporary marriages forced to tickle a man's face with a peacock feather shoved up their butts {yeah, I'm serrious, that was part of it} than by all means, this book will easily take your day up and leave you hating Saudi men forever;).

My conclusion. While the "Princess Series" does talk about some honest and true issues of gender inequality, and how Saudi society before the 80s only left a few roles for women in the Kingdom to grow up with {"Rebel without a Cause" and "Religious Extremist"}, because it was marketed as a true story that is nothing of the kind and paints Saudi society in an extroidinarily bad light as a whole, I have to say, it reads a little like propoganda, since most of those who read it believe it.

Did I love it? No, it is no work of litterature to be sure. Did I like it? Actually yes, it is a fun read. Does it have relevance? Kind of, in one way to speak of how the world outside of Saudi Arabia imagines Arabia to be, that extreme Orientalism still exists and sells better than truth, and of the topic of the limited roles for Saudi women in their society, but those two don't go together as they cannot be a platform for talk of change since they contradict any honesty on the subject thereof. I'd of preferred a well written version based on the Kuwaiti divorcee's memoirs though, to this romp through the menagerie of a fictiousous Saudi household and its palaces. The publisher should have gotten Sasson to write her memoir. Sasson is a much better writer for sure.

If you know it isn't the brave biography it is marketed as, it is Orientalist chick litt. at its best.


Jean Sasson said...

Hi. This is Jean Sasson, the author of the PRINCESS books. I thought you might want to know the FACTS of the frivolous lawsuit that a judge threw out of court and fined the woman who brought the suit. Strange to me, that you are willing to make such strong and slanderous statements without reading the woman's book which is NOTHING like the Princess books. While her attorneys made up a bunch of bogus lists, nothing in those lists were true. It was a trick on lazy journalists who they knew would simply print up the lists. They tried the same thing on the judge, who read all the material and saw through their tricks and came back so strong against the woman and her attorneys that it made legal history in the USA. This same woman accused yet another author, UK writer Deborah Moggach, of the same thing. Deborah wrote about a Pakistani woman. I'm always amazed that anyone would write such slanderous comments as you have, without reading all the material. This is something I would not do if our situations were reversed. I had never heard of this woman until she started claiming that a story about a Saudi princess. The judge agreed, all my publishers agreed. Had they had one SENTENCE in my book that created doubt, I would have never been published again. My publishers had no loyalty to me as a writer had I done what I was accused of doing. What publishers do in such a case is pull the books and made the author pay for the lawsuit plus all the expenses of pulling the books. My publisher felt badly for me because they quickly realized (after reading and comparing her unpublished work to my published works) that nothing was true. In fact, both publishers and their attorney told my attorney that it was the most ridiculous and frivolous lawsuit they had ever seen in all their years of dealing with false accusations. Because of this, they stood by me. NO OTHER REASON. Now I have 9 books published by reputable and big publishers as all know what you are repeating simply didn't happen. One day you may be accused of something you didn't do, and when and if that happens, you will hope that people will look carefully before they jump on a false accusation and run with it. If you ARE interested in the truth, rather than spreading lies, then read the books and compare yourself. You can buy her self-published book online. You'll be stunned to discover that you have made some very rash statements that are completely false. You also might have an interest in reading the judge's decision which lays it all out and the fact that nothing in the two works have any resemblance. I thank God we had a judge that read every word rather than a lazy judge that might not have wanted to do the massive work involved in reading all the actual works. (the woman's lawyers presented 3 different manuscripts -- held back one that took a judge's order to them to get. In that original manuscript, the one the woman had given to the agent to try to sell, she had laid out her accusations against Deborah Moggach. They didn't want us to know about that accusation. HAD I READ her manuscript before the lawsuit, I would have known about it. After that, and after Deborah Moggach's testimony of how the woman harassed her, threatened her, and made her so fearful that she MOVED, the judge knew that we had a very odd situation on our hands. This woman even harassed my elderly parents. You are attacking a victim (me) and taking up for someone who gives every appearance of having a mental problem. Sometimes we are wrong in life, and in this case, you are completely wrong. I would love to hear back from you after you read her work and compare to my own, rather than read the bogus material her lawyers unsuccessfully tried to present to the judge and pass off as fact.

Sahara Serum said...

I read all 3 books I find it to be completely exaggerated. I would read this the way I would read any Western "true story"

bb said...

I just came across your blog today. It's really interesting and well written. I look forward to reading more. bb

Anonymous said...

jean is so full of it..can't believe osama's son even sold out to her writing his book on his childhood.
I think her books do more damage then anything else..and the amount of times i have asked saudis..."do you think it would be possible for a princess to tell a story like this to a random american journalist knowing she would write a book" and they just laugh.
I remember reading this book when i was about 14 and the fear i had from then on for arabs/saudis in general. She has made her money off the back of a society she defamed. Yes some issues are true and i get that..but she made all saudis out to be crap people and thats not fair.
Sorry I'm in a ranting mood lol

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Hi Jean, actually, you left a similar comment on a blog I read a long while's back. It was from that blog I got to read the manuscript and did find many similarities to your character of Sultana, although less exaggerated. I am sorry if you do not like that I do not believe a princess gave you her biography, whatever the court ruling. Courts don't always give justice, but they always give out the law. But if it is any compensation to you, I really, really do like your style of writing, and find the rest of your works after the Princess series to be legit. Like I said, I did actually enjoy reading "Princess".

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Sahara Serum: Agreed 100%

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

bb: thank you. You are totally forgiving of all the gramatical errors and typos.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Anon: That book I DID find to be a good read. I prefer embellishment to most biography, unless I am reading about someone truly facsinating by Antonia Fraser;)

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

And to Jean: and the cover art does draw people in. That is a beautiful niqab.

Noor said...

I read the books about 6 years and I loved them all so much as well as the Girls of Riyadh which I read about 4 years ago. I loved them all. r