‘Daring to Drive’ illuminates
Saudi woman’s life
“Daring to Drive: A Saudi
Woman’s Awakening” (Simon & Schuster)), by Manal Al-Sharif
Beset by traffic, smog and other
distractions, it’s easy to forget that driving a car is an act of free
will, in theory transcending race, class and gender.
Then imagine what life would be
like if women weren’t allowed to drive. Need to go to the hospital?
No. Pick up kids after work? No. Visit family or friends? No. The
only options are call a driver or wait for a male relative.
Manal Al-Sharif illuminates the
insidious nature of that reality in Saudi Arabia. “Daring to Drive” is
a brave, extraordinary, heartbreakingly personal story of one woman’s
battle for equal rights, told through the minute details of an everyday
life that boiled over after years of frustrations.
The book provides a rare glimpse
into Saudi society, and especially into the lives and emotions of
women. Rules — especially for women — are everywhere, and so are the
punishments for breaking them. “Every public and most private spaces
were saturated with radical books, brochures, and cassette sermons ...
(and) these pieces of religious propaganda were overwhelmingly intended
to enforce the compliance of women,” she writes.
Al-Sharif’s father and mother beat
her; teachers beat students; her husband beat her; and other men beat
their wives, usually with few consequences. Those passages are
searingly painful to read, but Al-Sharif has the rare ability to put her
suffering in context.
The book ends with a blow-by-blow
account of her arrest in May 2011 as part of a larger protest against a
driving ban. That November she filed a lawsuit challenging the
government refusal to give licenses to women. Soon afterward leading
religious scholars warned that doing so would lead to a surge in
prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. The experts
proclaimed that “within ten years there would be no more virgins” in the
country if women were allowed to drive.
Al-Sharif presents a valuable and
honest look into the hearts and minds of people who live in a society
that is mostly off-limits to Westerners. Her literary achievement is
that despite the huge cultural differences, “Daring to Drive” shows that
Saudi women and men have dreams and fears much like our own. (AP)
Maum suggests we put down
our digital screens in ‘Touch’
“Touch” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), by
We live in a
generation where we view the world through a screen. Most of our
professional and social lives are dominated by a laptop, smartphone,
digital tablet, or high-definition television. In her novel “Touch,”
Courtney Maum considers a time in the not-so-distance future where
communicating through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth takes a backseat to the
physical need for human contact.
Sloane Jacobsen is
the reason people “swipe.” She forecast the digital wave of non-stop
communication well before the world caught on. As a global trendsetter,
a wide array of companies often hire Sloane to help them navigate the
next big thing. Whether it’s fashion, lifestyle, or gadgets, Sloane’s
curious premonitions help her to correctly target which direction the
market is going to swing.
predicts that having children will soon be considered an indulgence,
global tech giant Mammoth hires her to help market their products to a
“childless” community. Sloane attacks the project from all angles with
several in-house brainstorming sessions. She even implements an
anonymous idea box.
realizes that even though employees appear to be enthusiastic about
technology, many long for something more personal. Something as simple
as a hug. She must make a decision. Will her boss be angry at her
sudden flipped strategy that forecasts the merchandise his company
produces will be trumped by compassion? To make matters worse, Sloane’s
boyfriend, who was also hired by her boss, is about to publish an op-ed
piece directly contradicting her informal findings. Which direction
will the campaign go?
“Touch” is an
interesting take on what life would be like if we just put down our
phones and stepped away from the computer. Maum reminds us to not
forget about those who are living and breathing right around us.
Because a loving hug, tight squeeze, or simple touch is so much more
fulfilling than a text. (AP)
‘Apollo 8’ tells thrilling
story of moon mission
“Apollo 8: The
Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon” (Henry Holt), by Jeffrey
In “Apollo 8: The
Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon,” author Jeffrey Kluger
takes readers inside the capsule of the Apollo 8 mission, the first one to
journey to the moon and back, which paved the way for the Apollo 11 mission
less than seven months later.
Kluger takes a
fly-on-the-wall approach to the beginning of the American space race,
showcasing the various men who would become astronauts. With the end of the
1960s rapidly approaching, the deadline unveiled by President John F.
Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade seemed a lost
cause. Bold and dangerous decisions had to be made.
Apollo 1 ended in
tragedy when the three men inside the capsule perished in a fire during a
test on the ground. That put off missions for a while, but when they
resumed, the astronauts did nothing more than work in Earth’s orbit. When
it came time for Apollo 8, the heads of NASA realized that if they were
going to achieve Kennedy’s dream, they had to make a bold move.
It was decided that
Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders would make the first journey to the
moon, orbiting it several times and photographing potential landing sites on
the lunar surface.
Every agonizing moment
both prior to the mission and the mission itself unfolds in fascinating
detail, and Kluger makes the reader more than just an observer while events
Those familiar with the
early history of NASA and the Apollo missions will love “Apollo 8,” and
those who were born in later years will discover a full understanding of a
tumultuous time and the fascinating people who helped make a dream a
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