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Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     If an ounce of compassion exists in your heart, Princess: A True Story of LifeBehind the Veil in Saudi Arabia will make a shiver run down your spine. It isriveting and profoundly sad.

The intensity of the tale is made clear inthe first few lines:

"In a land where kings still rule, I am aprincess. You must know me only as Sultana. I cannot reveal my true name for fearharm will come to me and my family for what I am about to tell you. As a woman ina land ruled by men, I cannot speak directly to you. I have requested an Americanfriend and writer, Jean Sasson ... tell my story. I was born free, yet today I amin chains."

Sultana, through Sasson, introduces her predicament: thecomplete authority men hold over her life and other women in her country. Throughthe trials she and her mother, sister, friends and other women face, theextremity of the situation becomes evident.

Sultana's firstrecollection of male dominance relates to her older brother, Ali. An unimaginablysexist person, he lies to their father who adores him and thus gets Sultana introuble. All females in her family are constantly ridiculed and tortured by Ali,who (even after experiencing life in the United States) is a stubborn,narrow-minded man.

The magnitude of the problems women face in SaudiArabia are reiterated by the many marriages between older men and teen girls.Sarah, Sultana's sister, is one of the unfortunate brides. Her marriage to anold, cruel man ends in suicide attempts and finally divorce, a rareoccurrence.

A dim light is cast upon the dark story of Sultana's marriageto someone who is not only being married for the first time and is just a fewyears older, but who loves her deeply. Her husband, Kareem, offers a contrastbetween the typical Saudi man and a slightly improved one. With the birth of alonged-for son, Abdullah, their lives seem to blossom into an even deeper love.However, unexpected events nearly destroy their relationship, and from that pointon, her happiness steadily declines.

Written in the first person withSultana as narrator, any emotions felt are graphically exhibited and flow intothe veins of the reader. Any doubt as to the shocking reality of her life areresolved with her stimulating passages and first-hand accounts. Sultana narrates,"Nearly 30 years had passed yet nothing had changed. My life had come fullcircle. Father and Ali. Kareem and Abdullah, yesterday, today and tomorrow,immoral practices passed from father to son. Men I loved, men I detested, leavinga legacy of shame in their treatment of women. My eyes followed the movements ofmy husband and son entering the mosque hand in hand without me. I felt quite theloneliest figure ever to have lived." Only Sultana could have summed up herlife with that statement, and Sasson masterfully lets it hang in the air.

This book has greatly affected me. It has given me insight into theturmoil faced by women of not only Saudi Arabia, but even girls I pass in thehalls of my school. Women's rights are something I take for granted. Thedifficulties faced by the women in the story inspired me to look deeper into therealities. However, this book also shows that being aware will not suffice in theface of grave danger - one must take action, and I hope to do that, too.

To counter all the suffering, a tone of hope rings true in the book.Through the positively disheartening events in her life, Sultana still carrieshope, showing that anyone can.

Creating a magnificent trilogy, Sassonwrote two sequels to Princess. The first, Princess Sultana's Daughters, tells ofthe problems her daughters face growing up. The last, Princess Sultana's Circle,describes Sultana's new group of women protecting each other.

All threebooks drive the reader onto just one more page, one more chapter, leaving thereader begging for even more. If I have served Sasson, Sultana, and the messageof the series' justice, you won't be able to resist opening the book yourself todiscover its brilliance.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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