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Excellent Daughters summary

Katherine Zoepf

The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World

3.4 (14 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

'Excellent Daughters' by Katherine Zoepf sheds light on the complex and contradictory lives of young women in the Middle East. Through interviews and personal stories, the book explores the challenges and opportunities women face in a region torn between tradition and modernity.

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    Excellent Daughters
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    In Arab countries, it’s a woman’s moral duty to hide herself from the male gaze.

    Imagine you meet a beautiful man or woman and feel immediately attracted to him or her. Who’s responsible? You might think that both are, or that it’s just magic. But in Arab countries, when such an encounter happens, only one person is responsible: the woman.

    From a young age, women in Arab countries are taught that it’s their responsibility to prevent their faces, hair and bodies from tempting men. A woman’s features are seen as so seductive that they would cause nothing short of chaos if exposed on the streets, driving men to commit physical assaults or sexual crimes. Women thus have a moral responsibility to prevent these crimes from happening.

    This is the reasoning behind the hijab, a veil worn to cover a woman’s hair. The hijab has recently been the subject of much religious and political debate in the Western world. But in Arab countries, it’s a given that once a girl is old enough to be physically desirable, she is able to choose – or in some countries, will be forced – to cover herself.

    This isn’t the only way Arab women are expected to hide themselves from a man’s gaze. While women in Western countries are free to go out and party, have male friends or boyfriends and attend college or university, it’s a different story in Arab countries. After a woman shows the first signs of puberty, she is often treated as someone who shouldn’t be seen in public or even interact with males at all, unless they’re part of her close family. Generally, women are expected to be shy and hide away from society.

    For many women leading these sheltered lives, marriage is their only shot at getting some degree of freedom – but this doesn’t always play out as they hope.

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    What is Excellent Daughters about?

    Excellent Daughters (2016) is an inside look at the lives that young Arab women lead today, marked by restriction, segregation, violence and discrimination. These blinks also point out the signs of a slow but steady change in Arab countries, as young women fight for their rights to study, work and look toward a promising future.

    Excellent Daughters Review

    Excellent Daughters (2016) by Katherine Zoepf is a thought-provoking exploration of the lives of young women in the changing Middle East. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through in-depth stories and interviews, it offers a nuanced understanding of the challenges and aspirations of these women, providing a fresh perspective on a complex region.
    • By highlighting the individual agency and resilience of these women, the book challenges stereotypes and misconceptions, promoting empathy and understanding.
    • The author's attention to detail and ability to bring the stories to life make the book a captivating and informative read, ensuring it is definitely not boring.

    Best quote from Excellent Daughters

    A woman is viewed as something to be protected . . . but also as a threat to the established order of the community.

    —Katherine Zoepf
    example alt text

    Who should read Excellent Daughters?

    • Anyone following major developments in women's rights
    • Politicians and lawmakers seeking insight into Arab culture
    • Anyone interested in social issues beyond the Western world

    About the Author

    Katherine Zoepf is a New York Times journalist who lived in Syria and Lebanon for several years, and traveled around Arab countries for many more. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Princeton University and currently a fellow at the New America foundation.

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    Excellent Daughters FAQs 

    What is the main message of Excellent Daughters?

    The main message of Excellent Daughters is to shed light on the lives and experiences of young Saudi women navigating complex societal norms and expectations.

    How long does it take to read Excellent Daughters?

    The reading time for Excellent Daughters varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Excellent Daughters a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Excellent Daughters is a thought-provoking read, offering deep insights into the lives of Saudi women and their challenges. Well worth your time.

    Who is the author of Excellent Daughters?

    Katherine Zoepf is the author of Excellent Daughters.

    What to read after Excellent Daughters?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Excellent Daughters, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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