As a prizewinning foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrections, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women.
Nine Parts of Desire is the story of Brooks’s intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. Defying our stereotypes about the Muslim world, Brooks’s acute analysis of the world’s fastest growing religion deftly illustrates how Islam’s holiest texts have been misused to justify repression of women, and how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once liberating faith.
“Frank, enraging, and captivating.”
—The New Yorker
“Powerful and enlightening…Brooks presents stunning vignettes of Muslim women…and carefully distinguishes misogyny and oppressive cultural traditions from what she considers the true teachings of the Koran.”
“There has been nothing finer on the subject from a Western observer…she looks at it from the heart…mixing historical perspective with piercingly observed journalism.”
“Avoids both the sensational and the stereotypical…insightful…a valid, entertaining account of women in the Muslim world.”
—New York Times Book Review
“A rare look at a significant segment of the world’s population that literally has been cloaked in mystery for generations.”
From adolescent pen pal in the suburbs of Australia to prize-winning foreign correspondent, Geraldine Brooks presents an intimate and captivating memoir. Born on Bland Street in a working-class neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid place where history happens and culture comes from. As a means of escaping the world around her, she enlists pen pals from around the globe who offer her a window on the hazards of adolescence in the Middle East, Europe, and America. With the aid of her letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests, the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz.
Brooks goes from the protected environment of a Catholic girls school to the University of Sydney, eventually renting her own flat near the bustling Sydney harbor. She hires on as an intern at The Sydney Morning Herald and then wins a scholarship to the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City, where she begins her career as a foreign correspondent.
As a writer for The Wall Street Journal, Brooks reports on wars and famines in the Middle East, Bosnia, and Africa, but she never forgets her earlier foreign correspondence. Back in Australia to attend her dying father, she stumbles on her old letters in her parents’ basement, and embarks on a journey that tales her around the world on the most meaningful assignment of her career. Her search leads her through Israeli moshavim, Arab souks, medieval French hill towns, Martha’s Vineyard fishing shacks, and Manhattan nightclubs. One by one, she finds men and women whose lives have been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of a mysterious and tragic mental illness.
It is only from the distance of foreign lands and against the background of alien lives that Brooks finally sees her homeland and her own life clearly. Candid, thoughtful, and compelling, Foreign Correspondence speaks to the unquiet heart of every girl who has ever yearned to become a woman of the world.
“Geraldine Brooks’ talent is unique: she combines the hardest-hitting reporting with a true writer’s sensitivity and an empathy rare for anyone. In Foreign Correspondence she trains her lucid gaze on the turmoil of female adolescence and by doing so brings us a dazzling range of insights that extend beyond introspection to raise questions about national identity in an increasingly global culture.”–Naomi Wolf, author of Promiscuities
Each year since 1959, Australia’s national broadcaster invites a prominent Australian to reflect on major issues in a series of radio talks. In her series of four lectures, published by ABC Books, Geraldine Brooks considers the layered meanings of “home.” The first lecture, Our Only Home, is a plea for Australia to exercise its potential, as custodian of a huge landmass and a critical share of the world’s oceans, to become a leader in the fight to combat climate change. The final lecture, A Home in Fiction, unfurls her thinking on the art of the novel.
The book is available in Australian bookstores and in the United States via Amazon.