Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem GirlhoodThis Wonderful And Enchanting Memoir Tells The Revelatory True Story Of One Muslim Girl S Life In Her Family S French Moroccan Harem, Set Against The Backdrop Of World War II The New York Times Book ReviewI Was Born In A Harem In In Fez, Morocco So Begins Fatima Mernissi In This Illuminating Narrative Of A Childhood Behind The Iron Gates Of A Domestic Harem In Dreams Of Trespass, Mernissi Weaves Her Own Memories With The Dreams And Memories Of The Women Who Surrounded Her In The Courtyard Of Her Youth Women Who, Without Access To The World Outside, Recreated It From Sheer Imagination A Beautifully Written Account Of A Girl Confronting The Mysteries Of Time And Place, Gender And Sex, Dreams Of Trespass Illuminates What It Was Like To Be A Modern Muslim Woman In A Place Steeped In Tradition Original review I bought this book as brand new It looks brand new It feels brand new There is masses of underlining inside The seller should be locked up and flogged on the soles of their feet Proper review see comment 5 The book was pretty good, very informative about the goings on in a harem The machinations and manipulations of the women to get what they want which they often do, except freedom They are caged birds who sing on demand and are there to be petted and admired and fed d Original review I bought this book as brand new It looks brand new It feels brand new There is masses of underlining inside The seller should be locked up and flogged on the soles of their feet Proper review see comment 5 The book was pretty good, very informative about the goings on in a harem The machinations and manipulations of the women to get what they want which they often do, except freedom They are caged birds who sing on demand and are there to be petted and admired and fed delicacies, but not left to fly free Although sometimes, in a guarded, sheltered, covered flock they might be allowed out for a visit here and there, but then brought back home and locked up again They deal with this by curtailing their dreams or else lying on the rooftop looking at the stars To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, some of us are living in the gutter but we are looking at the stars , well they are on the rooftops Ironically, their country cousins, whom they visit irregularly, do not suffer the same strictures women are out and about on the farm, riding horses and generally being allowed a life The author hated leaving the country to return to the enclosed world of women in the city.Nothing, but nothing, no matter what luxury, or what travail, can ever make up for freedom of choice I wonder what the Queen s views are of on this as she has great work, a 24 carat gold cage and is often allowed out, but not alone, and is guarded once back home When you happen to be trapped powerless behind walls, stuck in a dead end harem, you dream of escape And magic flourishes when you spell out that dream and make the frontiers vanish Dreams can change your life, and eventually the world Liberation starts with images dancing in your little head, and you translate those images in words And words cost nothing Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem GirlhoodI just recently came across Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mern When you happen to be trapped powerless behind walls, stuck in a dead end harem, you dream of escape And magic flourishes when you spell out that dream and make the frontiers vanish Dreams can change your life, and eventually the world Liberation starts with images dancing in your little head, and you translate those images in words And words cost nothing Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem GirlhoodI just recently came across Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mernissi and was sorry to learn that she passed away late last year I m so grateful to her for this text, for hearing her story Someone once told me we are always born into the right place at the right time and Mernissi definitely was Born in Morocco in 1940 during the transition between tradition and modernity, she was a witness to the war and colonialism by the French As a sociologist, most importantly a feminist, she is able to present her story in a coming of age story situated in history I believe she was meant to write this story and she writes it well and so beautifully, even inserting funny yet profound childhood observations We knew that the French were greedy and had come a long way to conquer our land, even though Allah had already given them a beautiful one, with bustling cities, thick forests, luscious green fields, and cows much bigger than ours that gave four times as much milk But somehow the French needed to get home The concept of freedom, especially when it deals with women, is interesting to me because it means different things to different people Is freedom about physical barriers Do we have to construct our own freedom and how do we do so Do we see freedom in the other And eveninteresting is to learn about feminists from non Western countries and how other women practice feminism in cultures that might not even have that word in their vocabulary I was quite struck by how feminism was done within the harem walls, in what people would say is a very unlikely place to practice feminism.The harem was defined as the place where a man kept his family and sheltered them It was both the place and the members We are introduced to proxemics and boundaries within the harem, and we also learnabout the harem of Mernissi s grandmother, Yasmina, in the countryside The harem is a boundary for women and the boundary symbolizes something to overcome somehow in search of freedom Some boundaries are invisible, others are concrete or metallic like the harem s walls or gate.One of the ways feminism was practiced was through storytelling, often intergenerationally In particular, Scheherezade seemed to be a very important literary figure in this world However, words would save the person who knew how to string them artfully together That is what happened to Scheherezade, the author of the thousand and one tales The King was about to chop off her head, but she was able to stop him at the last minute, just by using words I was eager to find out how she had done it It was timely that I read this book just before reading Steinem sMy Life on the RoadIn a sense, their lives are opposites, one grew up on the road, one behind a wall Mernissi talked about the importance for women to not be restricted in their movements and I think Steinem would agree I knew that if you moved around, your mind worked faster, because you were constantly seeing new things that you had to respond to All in all, this account reiterates how powerful words are, how women do have that power to transform their own lives You are going to transform this world, aren t you You are going to create a planet without walls and without frontiers where the gatekeepers have off every day of the year Despite its appearance on every reading list related to Morocco, I d resisted reading Mernissi s recent recounting of growing up in Fez in the 1940s and 50s A harem girlhood Exotic and titillating, I thought, but not likely a typical upbringing Now that I ve read this fascinating memoir, I realize that the western stereotype of harem dancing girls who take turns pleasing a wealthy sultan hardly matches the reality In fact, Mernissi notes, the everyday domestic harem involves housing Despite its appearance on every reading list related to Morocco, I d resisted reading Mernissi s recent recounting of growing up in Fez in the 1940s and 50s A harem girlhood Exotic and titillating, I thought, but not likely a typical upbringing Now that I ve read this fascinating memoir, I realize that the western stereotype of harem dancing girls who take turns pleasing a wealthy sultan hardly matches the reality In fact, Mernissi notes, the everyday domestic harem involves housing the women in an extended family together, in seclusion from the world Mernissi s mother, a grandmother and an aunt found ways to subtly subvert their oppression, taking their cue from the women of Scheherazade s A Thousand and One Nights who did not try to convince society to free them they went ahead and freed themselves From throwing off the veil to creating opportunities for permission to venture beyond the front gate, their small subversions surely are the roots of the liberation Moroccan women enjoy today and are an important part of the country s slow progression toward ademocratic and equitable society Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem Girlhood is a coming of age story, set in Morocco during WWII, an account of Yasmina s attempt to decipher the cloistered world within and the greater world beyond the family home in Fez The book almost seems a cross between an autobiography and an ethnographic study of French Colonial Morocco, just as the stirrings of an independence movement are in the air It can t really be compared to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank but there are certain similar Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem Girlhood is a coming of age story, set in Morocco during WWII, an account of Yasmina s attempt to decipher the cloistered world within and the greater world beyond the family home in Fez The book almost seems a cross between an autobiography and an ethnographic study of French Colonial Morocco, just as the stirrings of an independence movement are in the air It can t really be compared to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank but there are certain similarities in the manner in which it portrays a young girl at the onset of maturation, held captive at about the same time as the story set in Holland but fortunately with a much brighter outcome.I read the very engaging work by Fatema Mernissi as a part of a program at my local library, via a National Library Foundation grant called Muslim Journeys , a series of encounters that included discussions of five assigned books lectures films, each representing different Muslim countries And while one has various notions of what life in a harem might entail, this tale is a warmly personal story detailing how a young girl deals with her very restrictive setting, while yearning to define her own reality in the midst of abundant social contradictions One example of contradictory manifestations comes with the realization that Princess Aisha, the teenage daughter of Morocco s King Mohammad V, is heard to give speeches in both Arabic French and seen wearing both long caftans short French dresses, with this combining of two worlds, two codes, two languages, two personalities seeming farattractive than living in just one In fact, this ability is spellbinding, like the sliding open of magic doors, enchanting the younger children, being encouraged by manymature Moroccan women in Yasmina s circle but viewed as an exceedingly dangerous form of trespassing by her father most men Moroccan men feel strongly that the hudud , or boundaries, are sacred meant to be observed as protective of Morocco s cultural identity heritage and that if women began dressing provocatively, smoking cigarettes, running about with their hair uncovered imitating Europeans, Moroccan culture would soon wither disappear However, when asked why young males went around wearing their hair like French soldiers dressed like so many imitation Rudolf Valentino s, Yasmina s father was not able to answer that question There are many memorable characters within the book by Fatema Mernissi, including Chama, who possesses charm books filled with folk wisdom and who often stages complex plays for the women on the terrace of the house but who is dictatorial prone to depression The occasional visits to the hamman bathhouse and the terrace of their home are the only two areas where most women in Fez can feel truly free but Yasmina s time at her much less restrictive family home in the country is also a refuge for her, a time of feeling unfettered Throughout the book, there are countless images of flight and of developing wings and a character called Aunt Habiba, illiterate but robustly sensitive loved by Yasmina a stand in for the author, Fatema , someone who while quiet, held onto her wings, giving meaning to her life by dreaming about flight , something that encourages Yasmina Imprisoned within the walls of the harem, the women went about dreaming of horizons without frontiers Some women who view themselves as modern even embroider images of birdwings in flight, an image that is seen as very threatening fortraditional women In the view of Aunt Habiba When you happen to be trapped, powerless behind walls, stuck in a dead end harem, you dream of escape And magic happens when you spell out that dream make the frontiers vanish Dreams can change your life eventually the world Liberation starts with little images dancing in your head you can translate those images into words words cost nothing.The beauty of Fatema Mernissi s novel is in its inspirational message, stressing the importance of having dreams, no matter who you are what your situation might be.This very enjoyable tale is accompanied by some very evocative black white chapter opening images by Ruth Ward I did have one area of uncertainty having read that the author is fluent in Arabic French, there was no mention of a translator for the English version of the book I read A lovely book on multiple levels Mernissi s account of a girlhood in an upper middle class family in Fez in the 1940s is both a luminous and gently affectionate memoir and a penetrating look at the idea of the harem, of a separate women s world within the household Mernissi is very clear the harems of her youth were not the lascivious fantasy lands of the Arabian Nights or Orientalist painting, but communal spaces where the women of the household lived behind a sacred boundary , where they l A lovely book on multiple levels Mernissi s account of a girlhood in an upper middle class family in Fez in the 1940s is both a luminous and gently affectionate memoir and a penetrating look at the idea of the harem, of a separate women s world within the household Mernissi is very clear the harems of her youth were not the lascivious fantasy lands of the Arabian Nights or Orientalist painting, but communal spaces where the women of the household lived behind a sacred boundary , where they lived in a society of their own Mernissi s mother was a nationalist and a believer in women s freedom, and gave her daughter the strength to become a leading Moroccan academic and advocate of women s rights Mernissi herself paints out harem life in its good points mutual support and communal strength and its bad isolation, lack of privacy, enforced seclusion from the world She is also very clear on the differences between urban life in Fez and the relative independence enjoyed by women on the family s rural lands Mernissi s mother and aunts learn about the world only through clandestine listening to the radio and rumours from Egypt and Turkey and the alien Christian world across the Mediterranean, and Mernissi s childhood was spent amidst women who believed in the promise that a new world was possible while worried about what a loss of tradition might entail Mernissi emphasises throughout the book the idea of borders, of the artficial separations running through society and especially the idea that, for the harem women, it was an act of trespass, something forbidden, to go outside their family courtyards Mernissi s climactic point is clear enough the mark of weakness is to be penned within borders, to be forced to stay in a narrow, enclosed world A lovely and surprisingly powerful book, and highly recommended A pointless book I can t imagine why the author thought this would be of any use to anyone It is supposed to be a fictional autobiography of the author s childhood in a Moroccan household, which practised seclusion of the women hence the harem business The book is unstructured and simply jumps from one topic to the other without any sort of coherence One moment you would be reading about the French invasion and the next moment, it is all about charms and spells There was no discernible pl A pointless book I can t imagine why the author thought this would be of any use to anyone It is supposed to be a fictional autobiography of the author s childhood in a Moroccan household, which practised seclusion of the women hence the harem business The book is unstructured and simply jumps from one topic to the other without any sort of coherence One moment you would be reading about the French invasion and the next moment, it is all about charms and spells There was no discernible plot in the book It was just a collection of random anecdotes, some of which were quite interesting, but led nowhere at all It might have worked if the characters were developed a little, but no attention was paid to that This was just a rant against Moroccan patriarchy Quite understandable, but not something I wanted to read It could have been so muchand so much better if the author had told an actual story her actual story A pet hate of mine is using childish voices to keep the quality of writing down I dislike lengthy childish ruminations of life and issues and I do NOT think they add anything innovative to the discussion It was quite annoying to read about dumb theories like the French going to wars because the taste of tea drunk with milk is horrible, or that Americans used short forms for everything because they wanted to go back to chewing gum Perhaps this was meant to be funny but to me, it was just irritating I don t want to read about dumb girl theories I was genuinely interested in reading about a woman s journey from seclusion to feminism, but Mernissi really failed in this.Even worse were the endless discussions about what a harem was And the stupid theories about the world war And boring discussions about the difference between boys and girls Do I really look like I care I wanted a plot, a story, great characters, a journey from A to B, not meaningless discussions by stupid children, half ranting, half political essay The ending was abrupt and ended with the protagonist suddenly realising that she was different from a male cousin Congratulations This was what I got after skimming through endless pages of traditional Moroccan beauty treatments One word Boring I read this after reading Scheherazade Goes West which expands on the differences shown here.This is actually a wonderful book about Mernissi s childhood in a harem and a comparison of that harem with that of her grandmother Instead of telling, Mernissi shows you the different lives of the women in each harem, and deepens the understanding or view of it You find yourself caught in the struggles of the women in particular Chama and Mernissi s own mother.And the ending phrase, is something e I read this after reading Scheherazade Goes West which expands on the differences shown here.This is actually a wonderful book about Mernissi s childhood in a harem and a comparison of that harem with that of her grandmother Instead of telling, Mernissi shows you the different lives of the women in each harem, and deepens the understanding or view of it You find yourself caught in the struggles of the women in particular Chama and Mernissi s own mother.And the ending phrase, is something everyone can get behind I must admit that I amof a fan of Fatima Mernissi herself than her books The Morrocan feminist is an icon in her own country Born in a 1940, she did indeed grow up in a harem and then went on to earn a Ph.D in Political Science, teach sociology at Mohammed V University in Rabat, do research for UNESCO, and publish a handful of books and a multitude of articles What is not to like It is safe to say that she is the doyenne of scholarly research addressing the validity or lack thereof I must admit that I amof a fan of Fatima Mernissi herself than her books The Morrocan feminist is an icon in her own country Born in a 1940, she did indeed grow up in a harem and then went on to earn a Ph.D in Political Science, teach sociology at Mohammed V University in Rabat, do research for UNESCO, and publish a handful of books and a multitude of articles What is not to like It is safe to say that she is the doyenne of scholarly research addressing the validity or lack thereof of the hadith regarding the subjugation of women In addition, she looks like an elegant and wise grandmother, who is said to have a great sense of humor and lecture in Darrija, the local Moroccan dialect instead of MSA Modern Standard Arabic, which is preferred by most intellectuals In short, she is the kind of person many women including me would like to have tea with because she is an inspiration Her semi autobiographical Dreams of Trespass is probably her best known book in the USA due to its easy going, humorous tone and insights into a culture the average Western reader knows little about It is a description of harem life through the eyes of a nine year old girl also called Fatima, who is as playful and fun as she is questioning and probing The precocious, smart girl grows up within the safe boundaries of her family home where her paternal grandmother Lala reigns supreme, while her maternal grandmother who lives out in the country is a free spirit allowed to roam the countryside on her own Despite having various fellow co wives, the latter seems happier than the domineering Lala Their grand daughter questions the Hudud or frontiers that separate women from men, Christians from Muslims, the French from the Moroccans, and most of all what is considered Halal pure from Haram forbidden or sinful The very word harem is a variation of the word haram That which needs to be protected at all costs Sitting on the roof, Fatima often observes the contrasts between the world within and outside the confines of the harem Her playful nature, games, and imagination are a way to deal with the restrictions imposed on her An escape her mother, who seems to suffer most from being confined, no longer finds enough From her highly sheltered world dominated mostly by men, Fatima struggles to find a balance between remaining loyal to her family and roots, while growing up into a modern, independent woman The beauty of Moroccan architecture and the inventiveness and love among the women and children counter balance the reality of living in virtual imprisonment, yet tellingly Mernissi seems to urge mostly her female readers for social change A worthy message that no doubt has inspired many a modern Muslim woman, but lacking a real plot, not satisfactory as a literary novel Wonderful memories about a young Moroccan girl s childhood in the late 1940 s 1950 s The traditions of Morocco begin to chafe against increasing Western influences The author tells of how the competing factions of her extended family make decisions and shows how 3 generations of women s lives have changed. A Moroccan Tree Grows in Brooklyn Well, not quite But there is something of the wistfulness of Francie in Fatima Mernissi, a young girl growing up within the confines of a harem in Fez The idea of a harem in the 1940s is somewhat different than the stereotype, and the definition of the word is something that Mernissi goes into in great detail Let s just say that there are no eunuchs waving palm fronds or scenes from The History of the World, Part I, or Scheherazade Although, the tales of Sc A Moroccan Tree Grows in Brooklyn Well, not quite But there is something of the wistfulness of Francie in Fatima Mernissi, a young girl growing up within the confines of a harem in Fez The idea of a harem in the 1940s is somewhat different than the stereotype, and the definition of the word is something that Mernissi goes into in great detail Let s just say that there are no eunuchs waving palm fronds or scenes from The History of the World, Part I, or Scheherazade Although, the tales of Scheherazade do feature prominently in the female culture of the harem I loved this book It s absolutely fascinating I love how Mernissi mixes her own lively childhood experiences of hiding in olive jars, trips to the hammam, homemade beauty treatments, her extended family s love of storytelling, the role of slaves in their home, and then contrasts it with the frustration her mother feels from living in a traditional household and being illiterate The role of women during this time period sounds like a real challenge There are also some great observations about the American soldiers who arrived in Morocco during WWII Apparently, they went right for the ladies A few quotes that I found striking Once I asked Mina why she danced so smoothly while most of the wother women made abrupt, jerky movements, and she said that many of the women confused liberation with agitation Some ladies are angry with their lives, she said and so even their dance becomes an expression of that Angry women are hostages of their anger They cannot escape it and set themselves free, which is indeed a sad fate The worst of prisons is a self created one p.162 Mothers should tell little girls and boys about the importance of dreams, Aunt Habiba said They give a sense direction It is not enough to reject this courtyard you need to have a vision of the meadows with which you want to replace it But how, I asked Aunt Habiba, could you distinguish among all the wishes, all the cravings which besieged you, and find the one on which you ought to focus, the important dream that gave you vision She said that little children had to be patient, the key dream would emerge and bloom within, and then, from the intense pleasure it gave you, you would know that that it was the genuine little treasure which would give you direction and light p 214 Maturity is when you start feeling the motion of zaman time as if it is a sensuous caress p.216

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  • Paperback
  • 242 pages
  • Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
  • Fatema Mernissi
  • English
  • 09 September 2019
  • 0201489376