Friday, November 21, 2008

Agenda for First Meeting: The Jewel of Medina

Phew! Finally, after many intimations of interest and then rapid disappearances, we finally have a core group. I think there will be four of us. Please let me know when you guys would like to meet.

I would like to start off our meetings by reading and discussing The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones. Here's a picture of me with the book. Yay!

Generally, this is a rough guide as to the information we should provide each time any of us nominates a book. It's not a template, however, so each of us can change or tweak the format and the information we provide in any way we want.

Synopsis of Book: A fictionalized account of the life of Aisha, the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad who was married to him when she was nine. This book traces her development from a child to one of the most important women in Islam, and a "fierce protector of her husband's words and his legacy", as the book jacket informs us.

Banned and/or Controvorsial Information: The Jewel of Medina created controvorsy even before it was published. It is currently banned in Serbia, (of course) Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, among others. It created controvorsy even before it was published.

It was originally picked up by Random House who sent a galley to a professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, Denise Spellberg. Spellberg read the book and instead of giving the publisher a blurb, decided to 'warn Muslims' of a novel that she considered made fun of Islam and its history. Random House promptly dropped the book.

In September 2008, a small British publisher, Gibson Square decided to publish the book. Shortly after, on the 27th of September, Gibson Square publisher, Martin Rynja's house (out of which he operated his company) was firebombed.

Publication proceeded, however. In the U.S. Beaufort Books has published the book. It has also been published in Serbia. Interestingly, the Serbian publisher had withdrawn all copies from stores but re-distributed them because of the large number of pirated copies being sold. Nothing speaks as loud as money I guess.

Reason for nomination: I'd like us to read this book for several reasons. One, because it is a recent book and we can track its current trajectory and observe first-hand how it fares. Two, I believe it's important to read contemporary banned books to support freedom of expression issues. Three, there is not much written about Aisha in the English-language press and she was an important historical figure.

I do have to say that looking through the book briefly has already shown me its many shortcomings and some inaccuracies, but still I believe this is an important book to read.

Where do I buy the book?: It is being sold on Amazon. However, I would encourage you to order this and other books through Wellread as much as possible. They have promised to work with our group, will offer competitive rates for us, and will feature us in their newsletter.

You can also order through Payot or Off the Shelf, of course.

Meeting date, time and location: Ok, group, please email me or use the comments section to let me know if we should meet in December or in the beginning of January 2009 because of the holiday season. I am a pretty fast reader but some of you might actually have lives and would not be able to read it so quickly :-). So please, please let me know. I vote for December 15, 2008 at my house. The reason for having it at home is that the author is interested in calling in. For other meetings we can meet at restaurants I guess.

If coming to Puplinge is too much of a problem, we can just put together questions for the author beforehand and email them to her, get her responses and incorporate them into the discussion.

See...I'm flexible like that ;-) And yes, I tend to overexplain things too. So there!

If you want a quick meet n' greet before the first meeting let me know. I am sure we can spare an hour or so at a Starbucks somewhere. Sometime during the first week of December works for me.

If want to skip the meet n' greet (considering it is the holiday season) and just want to shoot for the actual discussion then please let me know. Either way is fine with me.

So, onward! I am so excited. I hope you are as well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


First of all, will everyone interested in this group please let me know if they are free to meet sometime during the next couple of weeks. I'd like to have a face-to-face meeting (perhaps fueled by some coffee somewhere in town) during which we can decide on things like frequency of meetings, where to meet, etc. etc. I also want to know how many people we have for sure. 2-3 people have disappeared off the edge of the earth after sound very, very interested, so I want to make sure that the rest are committed enough to make it to the meeting. So drop me a line, or just in the comments section here to let me know.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Hi group members:

Welcome to our banned books group blog. I think all of us should have access so that any of us can post to it. This is just the first step.

I am working on our book nomination template/form so we can start on this.

FYI, Sherry Jones who wrote the recent The Jewel of Medina is interested in calling in and participating for when we discuss her book. It is now available on Amazon and I think we should definitely start with this one since it's new, controvorsial and has already resulted in a firebombing!

What do you say?