Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World (Paperback)

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Excellent Daughters is a powerful work of journalism. Living in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and pre-civil-war Syria, Katherine Zoepf worked on the interviews that would become Excellent Daughters. Publishing her work piecemeal brought both encouragement and chastisement from those she had already talked to—Excellent Daughters is the result of these ongoing conversations, explanations, and critiques. Zoepf’s interviews with women in the Middle East tell a clear and reflective story while refusing to simplify a diverse and vital group of voices. Zoepf’s subjects confront everything from Disney-themed weddings and the job market, to family- and state-perpetrated violence against women. Zoepf does not pretend to agree with everything she hears, but she confronts her own reactions with thoughtful, incisive prose. Excellent Daughters is wholly focused on women and dominated by their first person voices, an engaging book that comes at an opportune moment and should be read by Western men and women alike. We rarely hear the opinions of young Muslim, Middle Eastern women in Western media, and Zoepf’s work serves as a refreshing rebuttal to this neglect.

— Ruby


For more than a decade, Katherine Zoepf has lived in or traveled throughout the Arab world, reporting on the lives of women, whose role in the region has never been more in flux. Only a generation ago, female adolescence as we know it in the West did not exist in the Middle East. There were only children and married women. Today, young Arab women outnumber men in universities, and a few are beginning to face down religious and social tradition in order to live independently, to delay marriage, and to pursue professional goals. Hundreds of thousands of devout girls and women are attending Qur'anic schools--and using the training to argue for greater rights and freedoms from an Islamic perspective. And, in 2011, young women helped to lead antigovernment protests in the Arab Spring. But their voices have not been heard. Their stories have not been told.

In Syria, before its civil war, she documents a complex society in the midst of soul searching about its place in the world and about the role of women. In Lebanon, she documents a country that on the surface is freer than other Arab nations but whose women must balance extreme standards of self-presentation with Islamic codes of virtue. In Abu Dhabi, Zoepf reports on a generation of Arab women who've found freedom in work outside the home. In Saudi Arabia she chronicles driving protests and women entering the retail industry for the first time. In the aftermath of Tahrir Square, she examines the crucial role of women in Egypt's popular uprising.

Deeply informed, heartfelt, and urgent, Excellent Daughters brings us a new understanding of the changing Arab societies--from 9/11 to Tahrir Square to the rise of ISIS--and gives voice to the remarkable women at the forefront of this change.

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

KATHERINE ZOEPF lived in Syria and Lebanon from 2004 to 2007 while working as a stringer for The New York Times; she also worked in the Times's Baghdad bureau in 2008. Since 2010, she has been a fellow at the New America Foundation. Her work has appeared in The New York Observer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, among other publications. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the London School of Economics.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780143109945
ISBN-10: 0143109944
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: January 10th, 2017
Pages: 272
Language: English