Thursday, September 23, 2010

"City of Veils"

Zoë Ferraris moved to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to live with her then husband and his extended family of Saudi-Palestinian Bedouins, who had never welcomed an American into their lives before. She has an MFA from Columbia University and is the author of the novel, Finding Nouf.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, City of Veils, and reported the following:
City of Veils is a follow-up to Finding Nouf. Both are mysteries set in Saudi Arabia, and both follow Nayir, a devout Muslim who is looking for a wife, but having trouble finding one in a society where he is not allowed to interact with strange women. Through his investigations, he meets Katya, an independent and liberal-minded woman who puts him into an agitated state of desire, admiration and disdain.

Page 69 contains a gem: Katya, a forensic tech at the Jeddah medical examiner’s office, is waiting to talk to someone at work. She isn’t wearing a veil. When a man walks by, pointedly avoiding looking at her face, she feels strangely empowered by it.
Her previous boss had taught her not to wear her burqa unless she absolutely had to, so Katya kept it resting on the top of her head, ready to drape down when the next pious bureaucrat chastised her with sharp works or a withering look.

“Do you think you are so ugly,” the last one had said, “that no man will find your face appealing? Is that why you expose it?”

No, she wanted to retort, I just mistakenly thought that when it came to sexuality, you had some self-control.
This is the big argument in Saudi Arabia for why women should be covered: they are beautiful, tempting, and distracting. Covering them up solves the problem. But as most women will tell you, not being thought of as a sex object would be a far better solution.
Read an excerpt from City of Veils, and learn more about the book and author at Zoë Ferraris' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Nouf.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue