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am 14. April 2000
This was a great, easy reading book that many people could really use as a tool for learning about a different culture. In this book, Fatima tells us about her life as a child growing up in a Harem, and the trials and tribulations that go along with that. Throughout the story, one of the major themes that is asked over and over is what is a Harem? Is it a place with four walls like the Harem she lived in? Or is it like her grandmother's Harem which is out in the country with no walls, only open fields. Fatima's mother's role is crutial in this book because her mother is so against everything that has to do with the Harem. She wants her two daughters to grow up and have every opportunity they can in life, unlike the lack of opportinities her mother had. To do this, Fatima's mother dresses the girls in western style dress with frills and lace. Fatima's father does not seem to say much when his wife does this, unless it is a holiday, then the girls are expected to be in traditional attire. The book itself was great and I would highly recomend it! The details Fatima Marnissi uses in describing the women's lives is fantastic, as is her point of view that this is being told by a child. Any age that is studying this area, or time period in history would enjoy this book as did I!
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am 18. Februar 2000
Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi
This history of a young girl growing up in a harem in Morocco is charming and thought provoking. Mernissi transports the reader to 1940's Morocco with her frank tales of childhood. Colorful vignettes and reminiscences tell the story of her youth and underscore the restrictive lives of harem women She tells of the methods women used to entertain themselves and each other in a world that allowed women to participate in few activities outside of the harem. Dreams of Trespass emphasizes the solidarity that occurred between the women that were so closely confined. Mernissi's numerous references and footnotes lend authenticity to her memoirs and tempt readers to further study.
The vast differences between city and country harem life are particularly interesting, as the country harem in which her Grandmother, Yasmine, lives is much less restrictive than the harem in which she lives in the city. In the country, the harem is more a state of mind, as the women have free run of the surrounding countryside. The harem in which the author lives restricts the women of the family to the home. The gatekeeper will not allow any woman or child to leave the home unless an adult male family member has granted permission.
The similarities between harem life and that of African slaves living on plantations in pre-civil war America was striking. Certainly there are many differences, for example, harem women were generally affluent and often had servants and slaves of their own to wait upon them while plantation slaves often had few resources to call their own. Both groups were totally dependent upon others for their upkeep and were not allowed to make decisions. Neither group had a sense of autonomy, because the freedoms experienced by both groups were dependent upon the will of their masters, husbands and fathers in the harem, owners and overseers on plantations.
Mernissi's description of the possession dance that Mina participated in has its roots in Ghana and is reminiscent of the stories of slave celebrations in the United States. As Mernissi states on page 161 in a description of the women's behavior at the possession dance," It was as if the women had freed themselves for once of all external pressures". I can't help but wonder if the slaves weren't feeling the same sense of release when participating in their own celebrations.
The same sense of camaraderie experienced in harems may well have been felt by slaves in their own restricted societies. Harems had their own rules of social order, as did those in slave's quarters on plantations. Hierarchy was determined primarily by age in both cultures. Stories, plays and other forms of entertainment were methods used to experience the freedoms that were forbidden. Perhaps the subjugation of people generates a desire for entertainment that includes the independence that they lack.
The progressive feminism that existed in the harem was surprising in that the women were so very cloistered. They were allowed no radio or other means of information unless they had first secured permission from one of the men and yet they had a real sense of how little freedom they had and just how much of the world they were missing. Throughout this book, runs a thread of dissatisfaction and a desire for more education, opportunities and experiences.
The methods used to rebel against suppression were almost comical. They smoked forbidden cigarettes and chewed outlawed gum and designed embroidery that did not fit the accepted rules of tradition. The women were very aware of how limited their freedoms were. "Running around the planet is what makes the brain race, and to put our brains to sleep is the idea behind the locks and the walls... the whole crusade against chewing gum and American cigarettes was in fact a crusade against women's rights as well...but men opposed them because they gave women opportunities to make decisions on their own, decisions which were unregulated by either tradition or authority" (Mernissi, p.186-187).
It is apparent that the same tactics were used against the American slaves. Keep them ignorant, allow no decision-making and they will not cause trouble seemed to be the prevalent attitude on plantations. But no one figured out a way to prevent dreams, in the harem or on the plantations. And dreams of freedom were common and necessary in both societies.
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am 12. Februar 1997
The author, Fatima Mernissa, was a professor of Sociology at Muhammad V University, Rabat, Morocco. The book tells of her life growing up in her father's home. It describes the richness of her life, living among an extended family of cousins, aunts and sisters. It tells of nights of communal story telling and play acting, of special outings like going to the public baths and the movies and life in the country side. The men in the book have no names but the women are richly described with their many interests and backgrounds. What makes this book interesting and different is that it is told from the point of view of a 10 year old girl rather than an adult looking back on her childhood. Therefore the book is full of wonder as she is seeking to describe life, trying to figure out what life is about and seeking to define the concept of harem. She discovers that a harem in the city means being locked inside a very large house with a guard on the door and having to seek permission of the men of the house before a woman is permitted to leave, however in the countryside, harem means something much different. The book gives one another picture of women in the Muslim world
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am 19. Januar 1998
I would have given this book a 10, but subtracted a point because of the title. I agree with Kirkus' review (below) which suggests a more appropriate title, _The Making of a Muslim Feminist_. The present subtitle, _Tales of a Harem Girlhood_, is not only sensational and provocative, but detracts from the real subject matter of the book. Yes, the book does contain tales of a harem girlhood in a sense, but more importantly it provides a rich, eloquently told description of a culture in which women were (and still are) held back from achieving their potential because of prejudice, ignorance, and blind obedience to a dysfunctional cultural tradition. I find this book to be an enlightening account of the life of an intelligent, courageous woman for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. After first reading _The Veil and the Male Elite_, what Mernissi has to say in _Dreams of Trespass_ provides insight into some of the events and perceptions of her early life that helped shape who she is today. I highly recommend this book, but would urge readers to first read some of her non-autobiographical works (then you can more fully appreciate her autobiography).
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am 28. Februar 2000
once again, mernissi has used the literary forum to vent her personal venom against her faith. As a reader searching for actual scholarly or literary value, I find her books an absolute abomination. A "bayt arabi" (arab-style house with a courtyard in the middle) is not a haram, nor is the extended family setting Mernissi describes. At least not in most households. But an account of life in a "haram" is sure to sell. I've travelled widely throughout the middle east and have spoken to countless women, in seclusion and privacy, learning their language in order to gain their trust, and rarely have I encountered the kind of frustration Mernissi depicts in this, or any of her books.
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am 25. April 2000
I had to read this book for class and I found this book to be easy to follow and interesting. It was interesting because it discussed what life was like in a harem. The book was written from a child's perspective, which made it more personal. The book provides a lot of information on harem life that the reader does not even realize they are being taught while enjoying the story. I also thought the title was good because it describes how the women of the harem are dreaming of the outside world and what is beyond the walls. I thought Fatima Mernissi did a good job describing harem life and I would recommend reading the book for those interested in harem life, Moroccan women, or for enjoyment.
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am 17. Juni 2000
It is really difficult for Americans to comprehend a culture as different as traditional Moroccan culture. In particular, the lot of women, confined in domestic harems and obliged to submit to male rules, seems intolerable. This lovely book gives a portrait of one Moroccan family living in a tradtional way. Or are they? Rebellious ideas abound, and women find ways of stretching restriction. The stories are beautifully human and funny. It is easy to be critical of another culture that seems so different, and I would never be able to live that way. But I feel that I have a better understanding of how they did. I sent a copy of this book to my mother.
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am 16. Februar 2000
This is a tale of a young girl born in a haran in Morocco in the 1940's and the struggle she and other Moslem women faced. Fatimi Mernissi was a shy girl born into a world she was sheltered from. She is restricted by the Moslem culture, but uses her imagination to escape beyond the boundaries of the courtyard to see the outside world. She is encouraged by her mother and relatives to fight for women's rights and she tells of the lessons she has learned. I think that this is a great book. Very interesting and easy to read. If you have the time, it could be read at one sitting.
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am 21. Februar 2000
This book is a great book for anyone who is interested in learning about a childhood very different than the Western culture. Fatima tells a story about her life as a child growing up in a harem. It is very easy to read, similar to a journal of a young woman. You will really get into the book and not want to put the book down. It has a very unique way of teaching you about a different culture without you even knowing it, while also keeping you interested in what is going on. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone not familar with the Muslim World.
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am 19. April 2000
Dreams of Trespass is an easy-reading book explaining life in a harem, through a young girl's eyes. By using a Fatima's young perspective, the book gives a fresh way to look at women in other cultures. Fatima takes the readers through her confusing life of trying to please her father by obeying tradition, and trying to please her mother by modernizing. Dreams of Trespass explains life in a Harem, which allows the readers to breakdown common stereotypes. This is an excellent book that explains the Islamic culture in an easy to understand way.
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