Thursday, 19 March 2009

Famous Faces: Rajaa Al Sanea


Rajaa Al Sanea (رجاء الصانع‎) is a Saudi dental graduate and author of the book Girls of Riyadh. Her bestselling novel is written in the form of e-mails and deals with the lives of four young, upper-class women living in Saudi Arabia. Her novel generated a lot of controversy, and was banned in Saudi when it was first published. Rajaa though, hopes to tackle serious issues with her writing:

"Q: Your novel mentions some of the problems that Saudi women face.

A: Yes. My concerns are identical to those of many other women in Saudi Arabia. In fact, I aspire to be the first to signal the beginning of change. These are social changes that are not connected to religion. This is why I am not anxious about discussing them through my writings. Silence is evil. I hate negativity and refuse to wait for others to act on my behalf. It is my duty to myself and to my children in the future. I fear I will mellow out with age and lose my motivation and courage, as has happened with others."

You can read the rest of this interview with Rajaa in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Such was the success of Girls of Riyadh, that it is now being made into a film, and the author nominated for the 2009 Dublin Literary Award.

Something that I personally, and I'm sure many others can relate to, Rajaa address keeping the balance between her profession as a dentist, and her love for writing, and says:

“I may be a good writer, but I’m also a very good dentist and that’s what I am going to be. It’s a part of my life that the public don’t know about,” she says, laughing. “I’m getting the highest results in my specialisation, root canals. Dentistry balances my life. Going to work knowing that you’re not famous puts your feet on the ground. Dentistry is my job and writing will always be my passion,” she says firmly, insisting that in her world it is perfectly possible to do both.

You can read more about Rajaa Al Sanea in this article from The National.

12 comments:

Aliaah Abdullah said...

she just lokks like penelope cruz....beautifull!!

Najla said...

i think that it's a interesting book... i liked it

washi said...

Hey Jana, I ordered Girls of Riyadh a few weeks ago and it was just delivered yesterday...thanks for this post :-)

Ruby said...

I absolutely love Rajaa Al Sanea, she is sooo beautiful!! Her book was really good. Thank you for posting this interview

Pixie said...

Salaam alaykom: Just a small correction. The novel was never banned in Saudi.... From Rajaa's own lips in her interview in Muslim Girl Magazine, ordinary Saudi citizens that didn't want people reading the book though bought all the copies so no one could read it. The Saudi government in no way banned it, and they are even paying Rajaa's scholarship.

Pixie said...

I love Rajaa's style!

Jana said...

Pixie: I've yet to read anywhere that doesn't say the book wasn't banned for a short period. And according to her latest interview in The National, Rajaa herself said:

“I lost friends over the book. It was sad. The book was banned for six months. My scholarship was threatened. I was mentioned in Friday prayers and you can guess what they were saying. It was not pleasant. I received life-threatening e-mails and letters and it affected my life”.

Pixie said...

Jana: In her interview with Muslim girl magazine she said that it was ordinary citizens that bought all the copies of the books to attempt having it off the shelves and that they wrote the government not wanting her to have her scholarship. It was not banned since it was published in another country (else is might have been but that was not the case). Poor Rajaa did say that people sent her threatening letters all the time though. But it wasn't the government. It was Saudi citizens. I'll post the whole quote from the interview if you'd like when I have time to go through my old magazines, but I know the Saudi government never banned it, though they have banned stupider things:D

Jana said...

Pixie: Don't sweat it lol.

hippie_cyndi said...

its one of the best books I've read...highlighting the universality of youth and their struggle with duel identity.

I wish another book showing Saudi youth who are neither rich nor well off could also be written. Since majority in the country...about 74% face unemployment and other barriers.

curlysue said...

i am just reading it now, and finding it very interesting. Another boook called 'The Others' has a similar shock effect.

Asmadwipriyo said...

assalamualaikum, rajaa, i am from indonesia, your book is beautiful. it really touched my heart. keep working and keep moving. allah with you

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