Nonfiction Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, September 2002
Page Two of Two

Scheherazade Goes West by Fatema Mernissi

Washington Square Press, March, 2002
Trade paperback, 228 pages
ISBN: 0743412435
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Scheherazade Goes West
 by Fatema Mernissi While the rage and grief that Americans experienced after September 11, 2001, will be a part of American history for a very long time, thoughtful Americans have begun to answer the haunting question of "why?" by trying to learn about the Muslim point of view. Fatema Mernissi, professor of sociology at the University of Mahamed V in Rabat and widely considered the greatest living scholar of the Koran, makes an outstanding guide through this profoundly different point of view. Professor Mernissi is not only a diligent scholar, but she is also an Islamic feminist. The author of Beyond the Veil and other books about the Islamic woman, Professor Mernissi presents a well-documented and researched comparison of two types of harem: the Islamic harem and the western harem, which is rarely recognized for what it is.

One of the of the most striking points that Professor Mernissi makes is that the Koran clearly states that women are the equals of men and that when Muslim men do lock their women up it is because of their deep fear of that fundamental equality. Western men began to subscribe to the opinions of Kant, who stated that women should never study mathematics history or geography as this knowledge would destroy their beauty. Historically, powerful Muslim men have enjoyed the company of educated and witty women, and considered this to be seductive, while Western men have followed an opposite path. Professor Mernissi's comparisons of the two cultures give a balanced view and are thought-provoking. Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville allowed Americans to view themselves in a different mirror, we have been fascinated with how others see us. Professor Mernissi holds up a mirror to the Western democracies that readers will find illuminating as well as entertaining.

--Sarah Reaves White

Stonehenge by Robin Heath

Walker Books, April, 2002
Hardcover, 58 pages
ISBN: 0802713858
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 by Robin Heath Stonehenge is a short, beautifully illustrated book that is loaded with new research that is not widely known. For instance, it is generally taught in social studies courses that today's Western culture (i.e., architecture, mathematics, etc.) has gradually migrated from Egypt, Sumer and then up through Greece and to Rome. In the late 1960s, however, studies at Stonehenge and other sites pushed the dates of their construction to over 3,000 years ago, thus leading to the conclusion that the structures and the accompanying astronomy and mathematics that produced them pre-dated the pyramids of Egypt. Stonehenge is filled with engravings from rare books and from drawings by the author that illustrate without a doubt that the prehistoric culture of Britain was sophisticated enough to predict geometry lunar eclipses, sun and moon positions and even the state of sea tides. Stonehenge has only 56 pages, but every page is packed with facts and illustrations that most readers will find thought-provoking.

--Sarah Reaves White

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