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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book with a mediocre title
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...
Published on 19 Jan 1998

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3.0 out of 5 stars Semi-autobiographical.
This was a book I'd been meaning to read ever since I visited Morocco two years ago, so I was very happy that my English/Arabic book group chose to read it for this month's discussion.
Although it appears to be a memoir, the author's web site refers to it as a work of fiction and Wikipedia notes that this fact appears in the French (and Arabic) version, but not in...
Published 8 months ago by DubaiReader


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book with a mediocre title, 19 Jan 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful book., 12 Feb 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the Title; this book is a Must Read, 5 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
Insightful. Clever & Amusing. Beautifully written. An interesting & worthwhile read. I could not put down this book & I could not stop laughing. Highly recommended.
I look forward to exploring other works by Mernissi.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Semi-autobiographical., 8 April 2014
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
This was a book I'd been meaning to read ever since I visited Morocco two years ago, so I was very happy that my English/Arabic book group chose to read it for this month's discussion.
Although it appears to be a memoir, the author's web site refers to it as a work of fiction and Wikipedia notes that this fact appears in the French (and Arabic) version, but not in the English one.

There are various sorts of harem around the world and the author describes two distinct types in her narrative. There is the rural farm where the author's mother was raised, which allows the women to leave the compound to shop, farm and ride horses, while the closed and gated harem in the city of Fez requires the women to have permission to exit and the gate is zealously guarded by a gatekeeper. The author was raised in Fez, where the weekly trip to the hamam or local baths at the end of the street was pretty much the only reason allowed for exit.
One exceptional outing described in the book was a visit to the local cinema, where a morally acceptable film was showing. The women wore veils and sat together in a long row. Tickets were then purchased for the row in front and behind so no-one else could sit there and be unacceptably close.

In this closed environment the women entertained themselves with story-telling and plays. The divorced aunt, Habiba and Fatima's older cousin, Chama, were the leaders in these exploits. I got the impression that these happened fairly frequently and could often become somewhat uproarious.
The other source of entertainment was the weekly beauty session preceding the visit to the hamam. Various potions would be concocted with recipes handed down through generations and zealously guarded. Face masks, hair treatments and henna were all applied and not removed until they reached the baths.

I found all the descriptions of this enclosed life decidedly claustrophobic. Meal times were shared, bathing, entertainment and cooking were all communal. There was very little time that could be spent on one's own. There was reference to depression amongst some of the women too. But there were positive aspects as well; support was always available at times of need and the children were raised in an environment where there was constantly someone around for advice or assistance. Siblings and cousins all lived together, playing all sorts of games and getting into various scrapes.

Supposedly narrated by Fatima as an eight year old child, some aspects of this book seemed a bit too academic, but the overall picture was well described. The author left us with a detailed feel for the characters and the life they lived in that place and time.
Set in the early forties, this way of life is no longer the norm in Morocco. The protagonists foretold of a time when women would have freedom of choice, to be educated and perform a useful function in a more liberal society.

I found this a bit of a slow read and put it down part way through to read something lighter, hence the three stars. Interesting but not a page-turner.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great memoir of a fascinating culture, 22 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
This is a profound and philosophical memoir of a period of time when nationalism, women's issues and changing male-female relationships had a formative impact on this woman's childhood.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, relaxing, 1 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Paperback)
Nice book - describing her childhood. All readers should bear in their minds, though, that Morocco is not like that anymore. This is a story from her past.
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Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi (Paperback - 14 Aug 1995)
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