Chapter 16 Swirling
Princess Sultana’s Circle, Jean
Sasson completes the compelling trilogy of the
women of Saudi Arabia.
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
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
books are also some of the most popular for
women’s reading clubs.
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
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
rebellious daughters are also providing her with
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
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.
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
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.