18 of the Best Books for National Reading Month
Frisky fish, pensive poets, illicit lovers...and more
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Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf offers Westerners a chance to sit in on intimate conversations in schools, homes, and shelters in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and other predominantly Muslim countries. Acting as a kind of roving confidant, Zoepf chronicled women's innermost secrets and dreams. She found that customs we might see as oppressive—wearing the hijab, the segregation of women from men, arranged marriage—are often viewed, even by the most educated Arab females, as benevolent, protective rules that liberate rather than limit. In fact, while more Arab women are attending college than ever before, the phenomenon may only be deepening the desire to preserve tradition, according to Zoepf.
— Leigh Haber