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Nonfiction Review: In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta A. Ahmed

Title: In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
Author: Qanta A. Ahmed
Year Published: 2008

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 454
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Saudi Arabia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Qanta Ahmed, a young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion. On a whim, she accepts an exciting position in Saudi Arabia.. This is not just a new job; this is a chance at adventure in an exotic land she thinks she understands, a place she hopes she will belong.

What she discovers is vastly different. The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparalleled contrast. She finds rejection and scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also humor, honesty, and love.

And for Qanta, more than anything, it is a land of opportunity. A place where she discovers what it takes for one woman to re-create herself in the land of invisible women.

Review: This book has so much going on, yet it also has a consistent theme: women in Saudi Arabia.

In some ways the book takes on too much. The author seems to want to cover everything that she encountered in her two years in Saudi, from the details of her Hajj to treating her patients to friendships to rules of the Kingdom. While I thought it was all interesting and she did a good job of weaving it all together, it was a lot. The parts that I found most interesting were her day to day interactions with her colleagues and friends as that most showed me how women were viewed in the Kingdom.

It amazes me what women (and men) do in Saudi to avoid getting in trouble or to achieve their goals. They are brave and strong and impressive. The misinterpretation of religion in the country is astounding and it was interesting to read about it through the eyes of a Muslim who thought she would understand, but didn't. The author grew up in the UK so she was used to a very different life from the one she lived in Saudi Arabia.

I do think things have changed a bit in the Kingdom over the past eleven years since this book was published. But, not enough. There is still such a long way for women to have basic freedoms and the human rights violations are well known. This book is definitely worth the read because it allows us to see the nuances of Saudi Arabia and to see beyond the news stories.

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