SEX AND THE CITADEL: Intimate Life In a Changing Arab World

Feki

SHEREEN EL FEK

Dr Shereen El Feki is an award-winning journalist and expert on sexual health and policy. Her book on muslim sexuality is thorough as well as open and honest. Interestingly when the western world was sexually repressed, sexuality and pleasure were celebrated in the Muslim world. With the rise of stricter forms of Islam and a backlash against the perceived sexual impropriety of the west in the twenty century that sexual repression became the norm. At one time in the Ottoman Empire brothels were licensed and taxed. The book that covers subjects such as female circumcision (known in the west as female genital mutilation), hymen-restoral surgery, different types of Islamic marriages, abortion, sexual violence, homosexuality and the changing views of sex amongst different generations of Muslims. Even hand holding in public is frowned upon in Egypt and other countries. Fek is trying to start honest conversations about sexuality because it isn’t discussed in the areas she writes about.

 

THE HEADMASTER’S WAGER

 lam2 lam3VINCENT LAM

Percival Chen (Chen Pie Sou) is the headmaster of the  Chen Academy of English in Cholon, just outside of Saigon. It is a most successful business, especially after the school gets American accreditation.  A Chinese expatriate from Shantou, Percival has done well, first in his father’s rice trade, then in the business of English lessons. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage. When his son, Dai Jai, becomes involved with one of the school’s female students, Percival warns Dai Jai of the deceitful nature of such Annamese women. He reminds Dai Jai that the two of them are wa kiu, overseas Chinese, who, no matter where they go in the world, must remain Chinese. He must marry a Chinese woman. Foolishly Dai Jai proclaims his Chinese patriotism in school refusing to take state mandated Vietnamese language lessons. Percival cannot both keep the boy in Vietnam and keep him safe. Believing it is for the best, Dai Jai is sent away to China at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Chen’s gambling addiction is revived with out his son. In a game of majong he wins the most beautiful prostitute Jacqueline. A mixed race Vietnamese her exotic beauty entrances Chen. He tries to stay on the political sidelines but inevitable is pulled into American War. When he finds out the truth about his young lover, his world falls apart.

An engaging look at the lives of Chinese people living in Vietnam and the culture of Vietnam in a time of devestating upheaval.

I’M YOUR MAN: The Life of Leonard Cohen

cohen1

SYLVIA SIMMONS

I’ve been a Cohen fan for all my adult life. In high school I wrote an essay on his poem and later song, Suzanne. So I had a lot of fun reading his bio. I put my ipod on his music, read and savoured. Cohen is a genius and it was provocative to get a glimpse into the workings of his genius. This bio is 558 pages long so it needs a lot of skimming, especially the beginning where his childhood and youth are discussed. Though even here some of the facts were interesting: Leonard was a leader at school and youth groups – he was actually senior ring for his high school. A fact that surprised me was that he was never intimate with the Suzanne of the song; extraordinary given the fact that he was known as a ladies’ man. I hadn’t realized how little success Cohen had in the US. Even his more successful albums didn’t sell well until more recently. His most beautiful album, Various Positions, which features the song Hallelujah, was not released in the States because the record cohen2company feared it wouldn’t sell well. So if you’re a fan put on his music and enjoy.

THE TRIAL OF FALLEN ANGELS

angelsJAMES KIMMEL, JR

Brek Cuttler, a big name astronaut  and later lawyer, found her self on a deserted train platform. She is covered in blood and there are three holes in her chest. The transition between living and dead isn’t an easy one. And for victims of violence, it may be even more difficult. Cuttler isn’t ready to look at all her memories, especially of how she died and what happened to her little pre-school girl. She is told she is Shemaya Station and that because she is a lawyer she will be a presenter, similar to a defense attorney, only without the arguments. Souls are presented in the Courtroom for determination of where they will spend eternity. To present a soul, Cuttler is given awareness of all the soul’s memories. Presenters practically relive the soul’s lifetime. She learns how here life is connected to other souls even through the past generations. “If I had remembered everything, I could not have possibly known how deeply interconnected my life had been to so many different people.”

angels1Angel‘s is a spiritual thriller, an amazing book.

 

THE NO-NONSENSE GUIDE TO THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

CHRIS BRAZIERhist2 history

The magazine New Internationalist publishes No-Nonsense guides on multiple topics. They are all brief, concise and easy to read. Brazier does an excellent job of summarizing the history of the world in 150 pages. And he covers the world’s history not just the western hemisphere’s.He has some interesting analysis I found this of particular interest: the Russian “revolution was highjacked by the ruthless dictator Stalin – blow from which the Left worldwide has still not recovered.”

It is a good quick read. It reminds me of

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES by Howard Zinn.