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 Interestingly, the Serbian publisher had withdrawn all copies from stores but re-distributed them because of the large number of pirated copies being sold.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.


Anonymous said...


I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Banned Books Group’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)


Kavita Chhibber said...

Dear Jawahara,
Could you please email me.
Kavita Chhibber

Sherry Jones said...

Hi Jawahara,

Let me know when you're meeting, and if you'd like I will try to be online to answer questions.

Sherry Jones

Judy Bussey said...

Thanks for the reminder that books are banned. I learned in the 60s and 70s of so called "Feminist" books that were banned by many publishers. Books like Madame Bovary and The Awakening. Now, in our global society, the issues may have changed, but the purpose of withholding information is still the same--control of an oppressed group. I'll start by reading Jewel of Medina.

I agree with Ray that your site deserves attention and is serving a great cause.

Missing you in Kentucky,

Betty Leech said...

Jawahara, this is news to me...and I'm interested so please include me with Judy B. as your American friends in support of your banned books group......thank you....Betty

Judy Bussey said...

This is old news to your group, I'm sure. I had decided to read Jewel and found that no local bookstores had it...JoBeth..a huge national bookstore by now, searched all its Jewel of Medina to be found....interesting isn't it. They said they're served by the same warehouses as Barnes and this interesting to you? I haven't done an exhaustive online search, but believe I might find it at Amazon....just amazed that our largest stores have none, even in storage.......