Book Review: Scheherazade Goes West by Fatima Mernissi


I first read this essay when I was twelve. It took two days and 256 pages to change my perspective of the world and, as consequence, my life forever. Recently I decided to open it once more and re-explore it, this time through the eyes of the woman I've become. 

Islamic and Pre-Islamic Art are perhaps my most favorite of creative branches, therefore there is no surprise to the fact that Scheherazade Goes West caught me at very first gaze. What captured me off my guard was it's skill to transform me in ways other books might never had, and to echo so audibly in my mind throughout the years.

Fatima Mernissi was born and raised inside a harem of gorgeous Fez, MoroccoBelonging to a wealthy family, owner of large areas of land and faithful to traditions. She traveled the world observing, learning, discovering, and emerged out with the most eye-opening essay I have ever encountered, in which she compares Western's and Eastern's abusiveness and provides us awe-inspiring information on islamophobia, equality, multiculturality and femininity.

Fatima was perhaps one of the most cultivated and questioning women in her country and generation. She mastered several languages and wrote her books in Arabic, French and English. She obtained her certificate of Political Science at the Faculty of Law of the Mohammed V University of Rabat and continued her studies at the Sorbonne University of Paris. In the year 1973, she got a Doctorate in Sociology at Brandeis University, United States.

This book is a critical lecture for both men and women, boys and girls, Westerns and Easterns, a book which I recommend beyond any other book I've ever complimented .

I learned that the first university was founded by a Muslim woman, that a great quantity of Arab countries achieved women's suffrage decades before European countries did. I learned how erroneous our general perception can be and how promptly we condemn. Yet perhaps above all, Scheherazade Goes West helped me construct the foundations of my womanhood, and I feel overwhelmingly grateful and proud of that. 

“Once I asked Mina why she danced so smoothly while most of the other women made abrupt, jerky movements, and she said that many of the women confused liberation with agitation. 'Some ladies are angry with their lives,' she said 'and so even their dance becomes an expression of that.' Angry women are hostages of their anger. They cannot escape it and set themselves free, which is indeed a sad fate. The worst of prisons is a self-created one.”

―Fatima Mernissi