Read Chapter 16 Swirling Sands

With Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson completes the compelling trilogy of the women of Saudi Arabia.

In her earlier nonfiction bestsellers, Princess & Princess Sultana’s Daughters, Jean Sasson helped create a new genre that has stirred widespread interest in the plight of oppressed women of Saudi Arabia.  Telling the true story of “Sultana,” a pseudonymous member of the Saudi royal family, Sasson described a society in which women are second class citizens with few rights, without control over their own lives, and who are subject to harsh punishment, for the slightest transgressions.  Exposing what Sasson calls “one of the most backward and cruelest social systems in the world for women,” the books remain best sellers with women of every age and nationality.  These books have caught the attention of educators who used them as part of their reading curriculum.  These books are also some of the most popular for women’s reading clubs.

Now, in Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson and Princess Sultana continue to expose the primitive cultural traditions that relegate the women of Saudi Arabia to near-slave status.  Portraying Sultana’s great courage in risking all that she has in the quest to effect change, the final book in the Princess trilogy centers on her crisis of confidence and ultimate triumph as she stands up to the seemingly unassailable power of Saudi Arabian men.  With Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean Sasson brings Sultana’s story to a satisfying close, leaving readers with a sense of hope about the future of Saudi women.

  Princess Sultana’s Circle opens with Sultana questioning her ability to improve the lives of women in her homeland.  As her wealth and possessions have increased, Sultana’s happiness and contentment have decreased, undermining her aspirations to assist helpless women.  When her niece is forced into an arranged marriage with a cruel, depraved older man, Sultana’s attempts to intervene fail, intensifying her sense of powerlessness.  Feeling frustrated and depressed, she secretly begins to drink.  Imbibing alcohol is dangerous in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal and also a sin for which she could be divorced by her husband and shunned by her family.

  Soon after, while visiting the lavish home of a royal cousin, Sultana and her two daughters make a horrifying discovery—their relative is keeping a harem of sex slaves in one of the pavilions on his vast estate. Mostly Asian and quite young, the imprisoned girls tell horror stories of having  been bought by their current master from their families or at public auction.  Unable to rescue them because, in Saudi Arabia, there are no legal means available to free these women, Sultana blames herself for not being able to do more.  A trip to New York, meant to revive her spirits, only serves to glaringly highlight the simple freedoms that Saudi women lack, from driving a car to wearing regular clothes in public.

Sultana’s rebellious daughters are also providing her with daily challenges.  Amani, her younger child, still caught up in Islamic zeal, may be a member of a banned political group of Middle Eastern dissidents who oppose the Saudi royal family.  Her older daughter, Maha, continues to chafe against Saudi cultural restrictions and the roving “morals police.”  Their contrasting views on Muslim womanhood provide a fascinating glimpse into the larger internal conflicts currently confronting their country.

Ultimately, with her husband’s help, Sultana is able to confront her drinking problem.  This, along with several other events, gives Sultana a fresh perspective.  Breaking free of her apathy, she returns to her life-long goal of raising the status of women in Saudi Arabia.  However, Sultana’s renewed sense of purpose is quickly tested when her nephews are caught committing an unspeakable act against a 14-year-old girl, who had been expressly purchased for sex.  Galvanized into action, Sultana risks her personal status and wealth to take a stand against the complacency of her male relatives over the child’s fate.  Ultimately, Sultana and her sisters vow to form a circle of support that will surround and shelter abused women and girls.

Honest and deeply personal, Princess Sultana’s Circle depicts one woman’s heroic struggle to make a difference in a culture where change in regard to women’s rights is painstakingly slow.  All who read this story are certain to be moved to action by its heartfelt message:  to join Princess Sultana’s symbolic circle of protection and work together to secure justice and equality for women everywhere.                       ISBN: 0-9676737-1-2

Read Chapter 16   Swirling Sands