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Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East Paperback – 27 Jun 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Saqi Books (27 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0863564836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0863564833
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.2 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'This is an important, timely book, and lucid to boot - a must-read for anyone who believes in human rights.' Rabih Alameddine, author of 'Koolaids' and 'I, the Divine' --Endorsement

'Masterful-incredibly balanced' Ben Summerskill --Endorsement

'Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must read this book' Mai Yamani 'Never before has such a comprehensive study of gay civil rights been published - Whitaker organizes this book expertly.' The Middle East Gay Journal 'An illuminating book on an important topic.' Publisher's Weekly 'Wise and compassionate.' The Guardian --Reviews

'Masterful-incredibly balanced' Ben Summerskill --Endorsement

'Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must read this book' Mai Yamani 'Never before has such a comprehensive study of gay civil rights been published - Whitaker organizes this book expertly.' The Middle East Gay Journal 'An illuminating book on an important topic.' Publisher's Weekly 'Wise and compassionate.' The Guardian --Reviews

From the Inside Flap

I enjoyed and learnt much from Brian Whitaker's book, which is excellent. It was inspirational to me on the challenges to international law, and the uses of nationalism to suppress dissent within countries. Fred Halliday, London School of Economics
It is high time this issue was brought out of the closet once and for all, and afforded a frank and honest discussion. Brian Whitaker's humane, sophisticated, and deeply rewarding book, "Unspeakable Love, " does exactly that. Ali Al-Ahmed, Saudi reform advocate and director of the Gulf Institute, Washington
This book is a compelling read. It captures with detail and with disturbing accuracy the difficulties and dangers facing lesbians and gay men across the Middle East. It helps us to understand the social pressure, the sense of isolation, the anxiety and fear and trauma. And through it all we glimpse also the possibility of hope, of remarkable courage, and perhaps even in the longer term the chance of a more open and accepting society. Chris Smith MP, Former UK Secretary of State for Culture
Brian Whitaker has given us a moving analysis of the hidden lives of Arab homosexuals. This genuinely groundbreaking investigation reveals a side of Arab and Muslim culture shrouded by the strictest taboos. Arab societies can no longer contain their cultural, religious, ethnic or sexual diversity within their traditional patriarchal definitions of the public sphere. Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must read this book. Mai Yamani, Research Fellow at Chatham House and author of "Cradle of Islam"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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This book creates a window for the Western reader to peer into the world and society of the Middle East, what surprised me the most is how the author reveals the similarities in culture, religion and ideology between 19th century West and modern day Middle East. The only thing I would criticise the book on is that it felt towards the end rather repetitive and I would have liked a bit more focus on personal accounts (although I understand that this is very difficult to achieve) and perhaps more focus on the historical context.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found the book engaging and well written. It does have areas of repetition and occasionally almost commits the crime of overstating conjecture from a very little fact, as the work complains clerics and law officers do in regard to homosexuality.
These episodes are rare and mild and do not detract from what is a valuable work.
It is well balanced on the whole. There is an invisibility of lesbian voices, but I suspect this is due to their voices being even harder to hear than the men in the discussed cultures per se. The work strives to refer to texts as well as interviews from which the female experience is perhaps almost absent.
There is discussion relating to various countries and I was particularly interested in the difference in levels of persecution and stated law in various countries and the Israeli/Arab situation and references.

The book is a good balance of personal stories and academic reference and whilst perhaps not 'enjoyable' is not a technical read by any means and is well explained and ordered so that it is very accessible.
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Format: Paperback
Whitaker was the Middle East Editor for the Guardian from 2000 to 2007. His account is easy to read, but was also criticised by some authors as reproducing anti-Arab stereotypes.

What inspired him to write this book was the now incident in 2001 when Egyptian police raided a boat on the Nile River and arrested many men. (The regime used sensational trials to divert public attention from the worsening state of the economy and similar issues.) Both the arrest and the ensuing trials caused many lives to be ruined and attracted worldwide attention. Shortly afterwards, Whitaker met two of the men who had been closely involved in the case and they asked him to write this book.

One expert reviewed asked: What about the thousands of men who marry and have sex with men on the side? The gay prostitutes on the corniches of Beirut, Aqaba, Manama, and Alexandria? Gender separation and sexism? The adopting of gender roles in the gay community? Class issues? Racial and Sunni/Shia schisms? The book says it's about "Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East", when really it only deals with politics, the media, and some insights on religion. Except for a discussion of family life, the book hardly touches on everyday gay life, at least for the majority of the people in the Middle East. When you finish the book, a lot seems to be missing.

There are twenty-two countries in the Arab League (if we include) Palestine, and to try to give a country-by-country picture would be both impractical and repetitive. Instead, I wanted to highlight the issues that are faced throughout the region, to a greater or lesser degree, by Arabs whose sexuality does not fit the public concepts of 'normal'.
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Format: Paperback
Firstly can I just say that this book is a must for anyone who is interested in human rights, gay rights and/or the arab world.

I thorougly enjoyed reading this book and I read it in the space of a few days. It is very factual and makes you appreciate how lucky we are to live in the society that we do.

The only bad thing I have to say about this book is that it can be a bit repetitive in places and all the chapters are mainly about the same kind of thing. Also it did lack more of the lesbian side of things. It is about a very important topic at this moment in time due to the vast amount of publicity the middle east has been recieving.

So all in all, this is a fantastic book and I would recommend it to anyone.
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