WANT TO KNOW ALL ABOUT PRINCESS SULTANA AL-SAUD?

 

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Go to this link:  A special:  The PRINCESS SULTANA TRILOGY  goo.gl/kxb2XA

BOOKBUB PROMOTION:  PRINCESS trilogy by @JeanSasson is $1.99 today (from $8.99) at Amazon, BN, and Kobo! Download it now: goo.gl/kxb2XA  Via @BookBub.

The Complete Princess Trilogy: Princess; Princess Sultana’s Daughters; and Princess Sultana’s Circle by Jean Sasson  eBook

 BOOKBUB:  BOOK ALERT for all book lovers!  For three days only!  All three books about Princess Sultana will be available for $1.99.  The three e-books generally sell for 8.99 and $29.95 for the three print books. In this three books about Princess Sultana, you are a personal witness to her life, from the time she is a young girl, to a rebellious teenager, to a young wife and mother.  She is always rebellious, but gains enormous wisdom during her life path.

SCROLL DOWN TO HEAR FROM PRINCESS SULTANA, JEAN SASSON, PLUS a second surprise:  A Chapter Excerpt from the first PRINCESS BOOK.

Princess Sultana says:  I speak to you today from my home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

I have been very pleased since the first day I told my story to Jean Sasson and she told it to the world.  Although from the time I was a child I dreamed that one day the entire world would hear my voice, I never really believed that it would happen. Yet I knew in my heart that the books about my life are important, because these books reveal what happens to so many females in the Middle East and in every countries, even in the west.  YES, life for women in Saudi Arabia is making advancements, and some things are better.  However, many things remain the same.  I am happy to be given this opportunity to thank everyone who cares about me, my sisters, my daughters, the women of Saudi Arabia, and ALL the women of the world.  I was very surprised but happy when told a big effort was going to be made to make certain that any person interested in hearing my story, whether rich or poor, would have the chance to read my story.  Nearly 14 Million readers have read my story.  I want 20 Million readers to come into my life. 

I am also very happy to report that I am working with Jean Sasson, providing her with information about how life has changed for me, and for other women, in Saudi Arabia.  So all of you who have read my story, and who care about me, there will be a fourth book about my life which will be published later in 2014.  Details will be provided in August 2014 about this latest book. 

I hope you are as happy as I am.  For now, I want to thank you all, again.  Princess Sultana Al-Saudi

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Jean Sasson says:  Yes, the princess is right.  I’m working hard on the latest stories to come out of Saudi Arabia.  If you are waiting for an update, you do not have much longer to wait!  But NOW, for the first time ever, the three books about Princess Sultana (Princess; Princess Sultana’s Daughters and Princess Sultana’s Circle) are being made available at a wonderfully low price so that everyone, no matter their budget, can enjoy the books about a unique Saudi princess.  Or, perhaps you would like to give someone special a book present.  This special price will go on for the three days.  Have a lovely day,  Jean Sasson

As the author, I am very happy about this, because I receive letters on a daily basis from young women who tell me that the books about Princess Sultana have changed their lives.  Some of these young women tell me that they felt rather frivolous about life until they read the true stories about Princess Sultana or other women in the kingdom (of Saudi Arabia).  Then, they tell me, they become focused on helping others, whether through a change in their career, to become an attorney to fight for women’s rights, or perhaps to become a journalist so that they might investigate the situation for women of the world and have the needed information to right wrongs.  Such letters from readers give me the energy to keep on writing! 

Princess Sultana is a unique and powerful woman and her life has been so very meaningful.  She is one of the bravest women I’ve personally known.  She has taken great risks for her story to be told, and believe me when I tell you that she has a lot to lose.  She is a woman of great wealth, but that is not what defines her.  She is a woman who loves her husband Kareem, her two daughters, Maha and Amani, her one son, Abdullah, and her three grandchildren.  But that is not what defines her.  Princess Sultana is defined by her determination and endless quest to assist girls and women in need.  While education for all is her biggest goal, she also helps when young girls or women have nowhere to turn when their lives are bleak, or they are abused.

I thought you might enjoy an excerpt of PRINCESS, to decide if you would like to read all three of the books about her life.  SO, here it is.  (Scroll down please.)  The princess was young and naïve when her wedding took place, yet her personality will capture your heart. I hope this stirs your interest in a woman who has made the world a better place.  If you are interested, perhaps you would like to read all three books.  I hope so.

Now, here is the excerpt!  Rather than start with Chapter One, as most excerpts do, I have chosen Chapter Twelve, the true story of Princess Sultana’s wedding to Kareem.  Feel free to share this excerpt with your friends.  HAPPY READING!   Jean Sasson

Chapter Twelve of PRINCESS:  A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia:

On the occasion of my wedding, the preparation room was filled with gaiety. I was surrounded by women of my family; no one person could be heard, for all were speaking and laughing as a singular and grand celebration.

I was in the palace of Nura and Ahmed, which had been completed only a few weeks before my wedding date. Nura was pleased with the outcome and was anxious for word of her gilded mansion to leak throughout the city of Riyadh and cause all to exclaim at the monies spent and the glory accomplished.

I myself hated Nura’s new palace; for romantic reasons, I had wanted to be wed in Jeddah, by the sea. But my father had insisted upon a traditional wedding and I, for once, made no outcry when my demands were not met. I had decided months ago to hold back my passion except for matters of paramount importance and to let little irritations slide easily away. Doubtlessly, I was becoming exhausted with the disabilities of my land.

While Nura beamed happily, our female relatives were heaping compliments upon the beauty of the palace. Sara and I exchanged small smiles, for we had agreed some time ago that the palace was in the worst possible taste.

Nura’s marble palace was enormous. Hundreds of Filipino, Thai, and Yemeni laborers, supervised by unsmiling German contractors, had worked around the clock for months to create the monstrosity. The painters, the woodworkers, the metalworkers, and the architects did not speak with one voice; as a result, the palace conflicted within itself.

The halls were gilded and richly adorned. Sara and I counted 180 paintings hanging in the entry hall alone. Sara recoiled in dismay and said that the selections of art were picked by one with little or no knowledge of the great masters. Garish carpets with embroidered birds and beasts of every type laid across endless floors. The ornate bedrooms made my soul feel heavy; I wondered how children of the same blood could so differ in judgment of style.

While Nura had failed miserably in decorating her home, her gardens were a masterpiece. Nearly a mile of lakes and lawns decorated with beautifully arranged flowers, shrubs, and trees encircled her palace. There were many surprises to delight the eye: sculptures, colorful birdhouses, fountains spouting water, and even a children’s merry-go-round.

I was going to be married to Kareem in the garden at nine o’clock in the evening. Nura knew that I loved yellow roses, and thousands of them, flown in from Europe, were now floating on the lake beside the rose-covered pavilion where Kareem would come to claim me. Nura proudly announced that people were already whispering that this was the wedding of the decade. There are no announcements of engagements and weddings in Saudi Arabia; these matters are considered extremely private. But gossip of monies spent and grand occasions staged travels throughout the land, with each section of the Royal Family striving to outspend the other.

I slapped at my aunties and screamed when the hair on my private parts was so rudely removed. Yelping in pain, I asked where such a savage custom had begun. My oldest auntie slapped my face for such impudence. She looked hard into my eyes and announced that I, Sultana, was a stupid child, and that as a daughter of the Muslim faith I should know that the Prophet recommended, for the sake of cleanliness, that all pubic and armpit hair should be removed every forty days. I, willful as ever, shouted that the practice no longer made sense; after all, modern Muslims are equipped with hot water and soap to wash away our dirt. We no longer had to use the sand of the desert for such purposes!

My auntie, knowing the futility of arguing with me, continued with her duties. I shocked all present when I loudly proclaimed that if the Prophet could speak in this new age of modern amenities, I knew he would end such a silly tradition. Certainly, I announced loudly, this one issue alone proved that we Saudis were like uninspired mules; we trod the same weary track as the mule before us even if it led us to plunge off a cliff. Only when we evolved as spirited stallions, with a strong will of our own, would we progress and leave the era of those primitive behind us.

My relatives exchanged worried glances, for they lived in dread of my rebellious spirit and felt comfortable only with complacent women. My contentment with the one chosen for my husband was considered nothing less than miraculous, but until the final ceremony was complete, none of my relatives would breathe easy.

My dress was made of the brightest red lace I could find. I was a bold bride, and I took great delight in scandalizing my family, who had begged me to wear a soft peach or pale pink instead. As was my way, I refused to relent. I knew I was right. Even my sisters finally admitted that my skin and eyes were flattered by the bright color.

I was in a happy daze when Sara and Nura lowered the dress over my head and shoulders and fastened the delicate buttons around my waist.

A moment of sadness came as Nura draped Kareem’s gift of rubies and diamonds around my neck. I could not escape the image of my mother on the sad day of Sara’s wedding when I had sat as a child on the floor and watched her fasten the unwanted jewels around the neck of Sara. It had been only two short years ago, yet it seemed another life, another Sultana. I shed my gloom and smiled when I realized Mother must be watching me from a great distance with a satisfied glow in her eyes. I could barely breathe in the tight bodice as I leaned down to pick up a bouquet of spring flowers made entirely of precious stones, especially designed for the occasion by Sara.

Looking into my sisters’ smiling faces, I announced, “I am ready.”

It was time for my new beginning, another life.

The beating of the drums drowned out the orchestra imported from Egypt. With Nura on one side and Sara on the other, I made my proud appearance to the expectant guests, waiting impatiently in the garden.

As with all Saudi weddings, the official ceremony had been conducted earlier. With Kareem and his family in one part of the palace and I and my family in another, the religious sheikh had gone from room to room, asking us if we accepted the other. Kareem and I had not been allowed to say our words of promise in the other’s presence.

For four days and nights our family had been celebrating. The celebration would continue another three days and nights after our appearance before our female guests. Tonight’s ceremony was merely a stage created for the lovers to bask in the beauty of observance of youth and hope. Our night of glory.

I had not seen Kareem since the day of our first meeting. Our courtship had continued, nonetheless, by long hours of playful telephone conversation. Now I watched Kareem, escorted by his father, walk slowly toward the pavilion. He was so handsome, and he was going to be my husband.

For some odd reason, I was fascinated with the beating of his heart. I watched the tremor of movement in his throat and counted the beats. My imagination swept me into his chest, to that powerful spot of romance, and I thought: This heart is mine. I, alone, have the power to make it beat with happiness or with misery. It was a sobering moment for a young girl.

Finally, he stood tall and straight before me; I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I felt my lips tremble and my eyes water as I fought against the urge to weep. When Kareem removed my face cover, we both burst out laughing; our emotion and joy were so intense. The audience of women began to applaud loudly and stamp their feet. In Saudi Arabia, it is rare that a bride and groom find such obvious pleasure in each other.

I could not take my gaze off Kareem’s face. I was overcome with the emotion of disbelief. I had been a child of darkness, and my new husband, instead of being the expected object of dread, was sweet freedom from the misery of my youth.

Anxious to be alone, we lingered only a short while after the ceremony to receive the congratulations of our female friends and relatives. Kareem threw gold coins from small velvet bags toward various groups of merry guests while I slipped away to change into traveling clothes.

I wanted to speak with my father, but he had hurried from the garden the moment his role was complete. His mind was relieved; his youngest and most troublesome daughter of his first wife was now safely wed and no longer his responsibility. I ached with the desire for a bond between us that had been in my dreams but never broke into reality.

For our honeymoon, Kareem had promised me we would go anywhere and do anything I desired. My every wish was his command. With the glee of a child, I listed all the places I wanted to see and all the things I wanted to do. Our first stop would be Cairo, and from there on to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and then Hawaii. We would have eight precious weeks of freedom from the scars of Arabia.

Dressed in an emerald green silk suit, I hugged my sisters good-bye. Sara was weeping so violently that she could not bear to turn me loose. She kept whispering, “Be brave,” and my heart broke for my sister; I understood too well that the remembrances of her wedding night would never disappear. With the passing of years, perhaps the thoughts of her honeymoon would merely fade away.

I covered my designer suit with the black abaaya and veil and snuggled in the backseat of the Mercedes with my new husband. My fourteen bags had already been taken to the airport.

For the sake of privacy, Kareem had purchased all the first-class seats on each flight of our trip. The Lebanese air hostesses wore bright smiles as they watched our silly behavior. We were as adolescents, for we had never learned the art of courtship.

Finally, we arrived in Cairo, rushed through customs, and were driven to an opulent villa on the banks of the ancient Nile. The villa, which belonged to Kareem’s father, had been built in the eighteenth century by a rich Turkish merchant. Restored by Kareem’s father to its original splendor, the villa was laid out into thirty rooms on irregular levels with arched windows leading to the lush garden. The walls were covered with delicate dusty-blue tiles, with intricate carved creatures in the background. I felt seduced by the house itself. I told a proud Kareem that it was a wonderful setting in which to begin a marriage.

The impeccably decorated villa brought the garish decorating defects of Nura’s palace to mind. I suddenly realized that money did not automatically bestow artistic discrimination to those of my country, even in my own family.

I was only sixteen, still a child, but my husband understood the implications of my youth, and he eased my introduction into the world of adults with a unique solution. He, as I, disagreed with the manner of marriage in our land. He said that strangers should not be intimate, even if those strangers were husband and wife. In his opinion, men and women should have time to understand the secrets of the other that make desire grow. Kareem told me that he had decided weeks before that he and I would have our courtship after our marriage. And, when I was ready for him, I would be the one to say, “I want to know all of you.”

We spent our days and nights playing. We dined, rode horses around the pyramids, browsed through the crowded bazaars of Cairo, read books, and talked. The servants were puzzled at such a joyous couple who chastely kissed good night and went into separate bedrooms.

On the fourth night, I pulled my husband into my bed. Afterward, with my drowsy head on Kareem’s shoulder, I whispered that I would be one of the scandalous young wives of Riyadh who cheerfully admitted I enjoyed sex with my husband.

I had never been to America and was anxious to form an opinion of the people who spread their culture worldwide, yet seemed to know so little of the world themselves. New Yorkers, with their pushy, rude manners, frightened me. I was happy when we arrived in Los Angeles, with its pleasant, laid-back ambience, which feels more familiar to Arabs.

In California, after weeks of meeting transported Americans from practically every state in the Union, I announced to Kareem that I liked these strange, loud people, the Americans. When he asked me why, I had difficulty in voicing what I felt in my heart.

I finally said, “I believe this marvelous mixture of cultures has brought civilization closer to reality than in any other culture in history.” I was certain Kareem did not understand what I meant and I tried to explain. “So few countries manage complete freedom for all their citizens without chaos; this has been accomplished in this huge land. It appears impossible for large numbers of people to stay on a course of freedom for all when so many options are available. Just imagine what would happen in the Arab world; a country the size of America would have a war a minute, with each man certain he had the only correct answer for the good of all! In our lands, men look no farther than their own noses for a solution. Here, it is different.”

Kareem looked at me in amazement. Not used to a woman interested in the greater scheme of things, he questioned me into the night to learn my thoughts on various matters. It was obvious that my husband was not accustomed to a woman with opinions of her own. He seemed in utter shock that I thought of political issues and the state of the world. Finally, he kissed me on the neck and said that I would continue my education once we returned to Riyadh.

Irritated at his tone of permission, I told him I was not aware that my education was up for discussion.

The planned eight-week honeymoon turned into ten weeks. Only after a call from Kareem’s father did we reluctantly drag ourselves back to our families. Like most Saudi newlyweds, we were going to live in the palace of Kareem’s parents until our own palace was built.

I knew that Kareem’s mother looked upon me with distaste; now it was in her power to make my life miserable. I thought of my foolish disregard for tradition, which had brought about her scorn, and cursed myself for thinking so little of my future by alienating my mother-in-law at our first meeting. I knew that Kareem, like all Arab men, would never side with his wife against his mother. It would be up to me to arrive with an olive branch extended in peace.

I had an unpleasant shock as the plane prepared to land in Riyadh. Kareem reminded me of my veil. I scrambled to cover myself in black and felt a fierce longing for the sweet scent of freedom that had begun to fade the moment we entered Saudi airspace.

With the tightness of dread in my throat, we entered his mother’s palace to begin our married life. At that moment, I was unaware that Kareem’s mother so disliked me that she had already begun plotting ways to bring our happy union to an end. 

Go to this link for all 3 books of the PRINCESS SULTANA TRILOGY  goo.gl/kxb2XA

BOOKBUB PROMOTION:  PRINCESS trilogy by @JeanSasson is $1.99 today (from $8.99) at Amazon, BN, and Kobo! Download it now: goo.gl/kxb2XA  Via @BookBub.

 

 

 

 

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Squirrel On My Head and Puppy In My Pocket by Jean Sasson

FOR THOSE OF YOU who know me as a writer who thus far has only written about the Middle East, and generally, stories about courageous Middle Eastern women, here’s a little sampler of a book telling some of my animals stories. Truly, the love of animals has ruled my life. I intimately connected with animals from the time I could see and feel. (This, according to my darling mother.) I’ve been the proud companion of 44 sweet creatures, including birds, chickens, dogs, cats, one horse, and one squirrel. I’ve saved countless animals, whether I was in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Thailand, or other lands.

I’ve been trying to tell the story for several years. Although I keep getting interrupted, I will be finishing this book late 2014, so it should be published in 2015. Meanwhile, here’s the sampler of SQUIRREL ON MY HEAD and PUPPY IN MY POCKET…

SQUIRREL ON MY HEAD AND PUPPY IN MY POCKET by Jean Sasson:

While I can’t see across vast expanses like an eagle, nor smell scents from long distances like a dog, nor hear the slightest crackle of like a cat, I was born with a natural gift that is intimately linked to animals. My talent is that I can feel what all animals feel. I can feel their joy. I can feel their fear. I can feel their sadness. I can feel their pain. My feelings become so intense that I become the animal with my mind and body experiencing exactly whatever it is they are undergoing. If they are shackled, I am shackled. If they are confined in a small cage, I am confined. If they are injured, I am injured. If they are happy, I am happy.

This gift has been a mixed bag, making my life’s path at times more joyful and on other occasions, more sorrowful. But I have no choice in the matter. You see, I was born this way.

My dear mother once told me that the first animals I ever saw were the hens with their chicks running free in our back yard. She remembered that my baby eyes lit with excitement, my entire body wiggled while my tiny hands reached out and my feet kicked vigorously. I acted thus until the chickens were out of my sight. Later when I saw a homeless cat jump and perch and preen while sitting on a high shelf on the back porch, sheer joy bubbled from my lips as a series of baby squeals. Mom smilingly related that throughout my babyhood, I never failed to visibly react when in the presence of any animal, whether dog, cat, bird, cow, chicken, or even an ant. As I grew older and learned to speak, she said that I could see dogs, cats, donkeys or cows from long distances, exclaiming with such eagerness that it was a big challenge to calm me.

I find it puzzling that there were no pets in my family’s home until I was five years old, and due to my inborn love of animals, a tragedy ensued from that event, a tragedy I can barely think about today without tears flowing down my face.

My love of animals grew more profound with each passing year, and my feeling of oneness with all creatures grew more potent, becoming so intense that today it is more acute than ever. Some friends or acquaintances who have witnessed the pain I suffer from this ability to connect with animals claim it’s a curse, doing nothing more than creating a torment of sorrows. There are others who tag it as a gift, realizing that I have used my capability to help many animals gain the right to joy and freedom. Whether my oneness with the animals is a gift or a curse, it cannot be separated from whatever it is that makes me, me.

This heightened sensitivity has meant that it is impossible for me to turn away from an animal in need of help, even when such an action means that I might end up in a confrontation with another human being. Many times I have jumped in to uncertain circumstances that threatened physical altercation. I’ve discovered that most human beings don’t appreciate being informed that they are neglectful or cruel. One of my most dangerous moments occurred when I was driving down a country road in Southern Alabama.
On that day I caught a glimpse of a hapless dog tied to a tree. Suddenly I physically felt a noose tightening around my own neck. The chained dog brought on the familiar choking and gagging reflexes that always occur at the sight of a restrained animal. I felt myself strangling as I pulled against an invisible chain that I could painfully feel around my throat, although my own neck was physically free. As I always do when I see an abused animal, I rushed to the animal. I slammed on my automobile brakes and pulled to the side of the road before making a quick circle to return to the small isolated farmhouse where the dog was shackled.

I pulled in a dirt drive separating the house from the tree where the dog was sitting in a delicate manner. I stared at the dog. He stared back at me. But the dog was not barking, which is what most dogs do when a stranger comes into their territory. I was puzzled, but would soon discover the horrific reason for his cautious position and wary silence.

I turned off my automobile and further studied the situation. The small and unpainted farmhouse was dark. There were no chairs or swings on the front porch. There were ten or twelve empty coke bottles on the wooden steps leading onto the porch. There were no vehicles in the drive. In fact I could see no evidence of inhabitants. I returned my gaze to the unfortunate doggie. The poor creature had no dog house, so when it rained, there was no shelter to be had. I could not see a bowl of food or water. The poor dog spent his days chained and unable to move more than a few feet in any direction. I asked myself a question I’ve asked myself many times before and since, “Dear God! How can anyone be so cruel?”

I waited for someone to come out of the house so that I might speak with them about the dog. Many were the times I had proposed purchasing a dog house, or even to help build a fence for dog owners I did not know, although most owners grew defensive and dismissive of my offers as it was clear that I had found them to be neglectful. Usually such situations end with angry owners ordering me off their property. Generally it would take days to get humane societies or legal assistance to free animals. But I’m impatient when it comes to liberating animals, so I try to solve problems on my own, without any outside help.

After a few minutes, I decided that the house was unoccupied. I mused that perhaps the dog had been tied up and then abandoned. There were constant and painful surprises when it came to ‘human on animal cruelty’. But whether the dog’s owners were there or not, I knew that I was going to take action.

I stepped from the car and made my way to the dog. It was a small male, no more than 20 pounds with short tan fur. We locked eyes. He was following my every move. I saw hope in his intense gaze but my stomach tightened as I was once more mentally assaulted by his despair. His short tail wagged hopefully whenever I started speaking, “Hello little man. Don’t worry. I’m here to help.”
When I drew closer I knelt and reached out to him, I involuntarily gasped. The dog was not wearing a collar, yet he was hooked to a chain. Someone had torn open a hole in the dog’s neck with the sharp point of a metal hook, with the hook connected to the chain. His every movement was an agony. No wonder the poor creature didn’t bark or move about. The dog had been in obvious torment for some time, for the flesh of his neck had grown up around the hook.

My eyes followed the length of the chain, which was wrapped around the tree. The loose chain was so short that the dog had no more than three feet of movement in any direction.

My breaths were coming short and sharp. I was ready to fight whomever had committed this heinous act.
The small dog was getting excited but his movements were tempered by the hook growing out of his little neck. I sat still, holding his head in my hand while studying the chain, wondering how on earth I was going to free the dog. I couldn’t rip the deeply embedded hook out of his neck without causing him tremendous distress and pain. I stood up and walked to the tree and was relieved to see that the ends of the chain were not held together by a lock that would require a key. Instead, the ends of the chain were looped in and out of the two or three chain circles. “Jean, you can do this!” I said, giving myself encouragement that I did not feel. I set to work.

I was breaking another promise to my husband, Ted, who was a veterinarian. (We divorced four years later, but remained friends.)
Bless Ted’s heart, he had not once complained at my practice of taking dogs or cats or birds that did not belong to me to appear in his clinic with the poor creatures in tow. He always treated the animals and always assisted in finding good homes. But he had recently confided that he was fearful for my safety. My promise was that I would get him to help should I feel the need to free any animals. At 5’2” and weighing no more than 110 pounds, I agreed with him that it wouldn’t hurt to have physical back-up. Ted was a big guy, standing 6’4” and would intimidate anyone who didn’t know that in fact he was a very gentle man.

But after seeing the condition of the dog, I could not bear to walk away, to leave him alone and to leave him believing that I was not going to save him. So I kept unlooping the chain. That’s when I heard the front door of the farmhouse slam. I turned to see a man of 60 or so years standing on the porch. He was scratching his face and looking at me in great puzzlement.
He spoke loudly and in poorly spoken speech. “Ma’am, wat you doin with my dog?”

I stared at him, pausing for only a moment, impatient to scream at the cruel man, yet knowing it was best to remain calm. “I’m taking him.” I replied in a level, determined voice.

“You wat?”

I remained calm, but never stopped unlooping the chain. I glanced at the doggie and his ears had flattered. He was terrified of the man. No surprise there, I thought. With an owner so cruel, who knows what abuses the poor baby frequently endured?
“I’m taking this dog with me. He needs medical attention.”

There was a long silence before the door slammed once more. I looked to see that the man had gone back into the house. Perhaps he didn’t care if I took the dog, but I doubted that was the case. It had been my life experience that anytime I pointed out cruelty or became involved in saving animals from brutal situations, the owners always became defensive, the sort of people who saw nothing wrong with chaining or mistreating dogs, or starving horses, or torturing cats, or any other brutal exploitation against a helpless creature.

By this time I nearly had the doggie freed. That’s when the door opened once more. I twisted my neck so I could see the porch. There was the same man standing on the porch. To my surprise, he had a shotgun in his hand, although it was not pointed at me.

Strangely enough, I felt no fear. Anytime I am in the middle of a rescue, my adrenalin must flow in triple doses, for I can’t recall ever feeling actual fear or even alarm during such conflicts, although I do admit it was unusual to have someone come at me armed. But I was more determined not to leave this hooked dog to his owner’s mercy. Something extraordinary happens to me when an animal is in need, and I feel myself a superwoman, ready to fight to the death if necessary. So I kept unlooping the chain.

“You not takin my dog, lady.”

That’s when chain loosened from the tree and clattered to the ground. I quickly gathered the chain and lifted the doggie into my arms at the same time. I began walking to my car. I was moving slowly and purposefully but my mind was racing. Thankfully I had left the keys in the ignition. My car separated us, but I was young and agile while he was old and shuffling. I could easily beat him to my car. I was small but determined. I truly felt that in a physical altercation, that I would be the victor. Of course he could shoot me, but I felt strongly that he was not going to shoot me over a dog he cared so little about that he had intentionally maimed him.

“Lady, drop the dog,” he ordered in his loud gravelly voice.

You nasty brute, even your voice is revolting, I thought. But I kept my thoughts to myself, giving him a quick glance and speaking in a normal tone, “If you are going to shoot me over a dog, now is the time to do it.”

I had challenged him. Unless he was completely insane, I knew that the doggie and I would leave freely.
I maintained my composure, carefully placing the doggie on the back seat and placing the chain in a manner that I hoped it would not pull on the dog’s neck. Only then did I settle into the front seat and start my engine and slowly drove out of the drive.
The criminal was standing on the porch, looking at me in bewildered astonishment. I guess he had assumed that the sight of the gun would create a panic and I would abandon the dog and run away, leaving the poor critter for further torture. Fat chance, you disgusting worm, I thought to myself.

I gave a triumphant wave as I roared off.

That’s when I decided to name the little fellow Chance. “You got your chance when I saw you, little man,” I told him.
Chance was extremely intelligent and very polite. He looked at me with a smile, yet knew not to move around and jiggle the pain-causing-chain. I could feel his doggie happiness flooding the car. Somehow, Chance knew that he was saved.

Ted was seeing a cat patient when Chance and I arrived, but his assistant was properly horrified at the condition of poor Chance, dropping everything to help me move the poor dog into an exam room. When Ted rushed into the room, our eyes met over Chance. That kindly man didn’t say a word about broken promises, but set to work examining the poor dog. Ted grunted when he saw the hook imbedded into Chance’s neck, and quickly changed his schedule for an unexpected emergency surgery.

Sometimes there are happy endings in a life filled with misfortunes, and Chance’s life went from the bleakest misery to a life of happiness. One of Ted’s clients fancied Chance, and soon the healed doggie was blissfully settled with a family who appreciated his specialness and lavished him with the best foods and infinite love and care.

What happened to the vicious man with the gun? Regrettably, there were few laws on the books in those days to truly defend and protect
animals. Coincidentally Ted happened to be a good friend of the sheriff in our small city, and the two of them made the man a visit, warning him that he was in danger of being arrested for animal cruelty. That’s when the criminal said he wanted to take out a warrant against the lady who had come onto his property and stolen an expensive and greatly loved dog!

He decided against that action when the sheriff cautioned that he was walking a thin line that might well cause him to be booked for a felony, although what felony the sheriff was not yet quite certain. Ted, who was one of the founders and was the current President of the local humane society, forewarned that there would be routine checks at his home to make certain that he did not acquire another domestic pet.

I aided in the cause. The man’s home was located on the road to the home of my best friend, so I routinely checked his yard for chained dogs. Thankfully I never saw another animal in his yard, something that would have made it necessary for me to spring into a second hazardous situation with the same criminal.

Writing these stories evoke so many memories. I’ll never stop admiring Ted for the super cool manner he handled the many pet dilemmas I brought his way during the four years we were married, and the additional years we remained friends. Perhaps from all the “Jean’s animal stories” Ted had heard from my parents, he expected no less of me.

Such reminiscences carry me back to my family’s history. These memories lead into my early days, to the very beginning of my many years of animal love, consisting of my many pets, numerous and dramatic pet rescues, and in one sad case, the tragic deaths of sweet kittens brought about accidentally by my own childish misbehavior.

I’ll tell you more about those precious, but doomed kittens later. There are many other stories to come, but for now, here are some photographs of only a few of the 44 sweet animals who have loved and been loved in my home.

Just in time for the holidays!

Princess

Paris, the cat who understands English

Paris, the cat who understand English

This beautiful baby was saved from a life of horror living in a small cage in a pet store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This beautiful baby was saved from a life of horror living in a small cage in a pet store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This huge German Shepherd was one of the sweetest doggies I ever loved.  He was 120 pounds, and VERY protective, but would play with kittens.  He was a lovely member of our household.

This huge German Shepherd was one of the sweetest doggies I ever loved. He was 120 pounds, and VERY protective, but would play with kittens. He was a lovely member of our household.

Newcombe was being sold in a pet store in Columbus, Ga.  Poor baby had lived for 4 months in a tiny wire cage.  I didn't really have the money in those days but I bought him and brought him home and although he was the most difficult of all my babies, only because of mistreatment, he was greatly loved for the rest of his life.  Newcombe lived for 14 years...

Newcombe was being sold in a pet store in Columbus, Ga. Poor baby had lived for 4 months in a tiny wire cage. I didn’t really have the money in those days but I bought him and brought him home and although he was the most difficult of all my babies, only because of mistreatment, he was greatly loved for the rest of his life. Newcombe lived for 14 years…

Onya was an 80 pound German Shepherd who was an angel... Always wanted to please, and please she did.  I still miss her.

Onya was an 80 pound German Shepherd who was an angel… Always wanted to please, and please she did. I still miss her.

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Visiting with Princess Sultana Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia

Princess:  A True Story of Life Behind the Veil I Saudi Arabia

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil I Saudi Arabia

Although I have been fortunate to tell the stories of a number of courageous women, (Mayada of Iraq, Najwa Binladin of Syria and Saudi Arabia, Joanna Al-Askari of Kurdistan, Maryam of Afghanistan, Yasmeena of Lebanon) and one man (Omar Binladin of Saudi Arabia) I’m best known for my book:  Princess:  A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia.  Princess Sultana, the heroine of the three books about her life, is greatly loved throughout the world.  Millions of people have read her story and faithfully follow her life experiences.  In fact, due to this enormous interest, along with some positive change occurring in Saudi Arabia, a decision was made in mid-2013 to write the 4th book about Princess Sultana, her family, and ongoing events in Saudi Arabia.  (This book will be titled:  PRINCESS:  MORE TEARS TO CRY and will be released by Doubleday UK in September 2014.) 

Once the princess, the publisher, my agent, and this author reached the decision that the time had come for book 4, it was necessary for me to meet in person with the princess to discuss and decide upon the stories we would tell in the book.  I met the princess at one of her many homes where we settled in like the old friends we are.  Truthfully, the visit reminded me of the old days in Saudi Arabia when I would lounge around with the princess in Riyadh, Jeddah, or in Monte Carlo, when we would endlessly discuss the painful lives many Saudi women lived, and the options available to her to bring positive change to her world.  Those visits started in the mid-1980′s.  That was the period of time she decided that her story must be told, and that the world must hear for the first time how most women in Saudi Arabia lived under the total rule of their men.  She knew then that few would know that even a princess was bound by heavy restrictions in Saudi Arabia.  There was endless gaiety and some sadness during our sessions, but both of us are positive-minded women, so there was more laughter than tears.  Those meetings continued until I finally wrote the first book of her life story during the summer of 1991. 

When finished, the book was not an easy sale.  Even though I had just come off a heady success with my first published book, THE RAPE OF KUWAIT, ten editors representing various publishing houses turned down the manuscript.  I had call-in conference calls with those editors and sales staff, and while all claimed to love the book I had written, those same editors spoke with the greatest certainty that American readers would not care about the life of a Saudi princess.  Thankfully, there were two editors who fell in love with Princess Sultana and her story, and so there was a bidding war between Liza Dawson, editor for William Morrow, and an editor at St. Martin’s Press.  William Morrow won the bid, and set out to publish the story of a previously unknown Saudi princess, Princess Sultana. 

William Morrow’s highly competent foreign rights department sold the book all over the world.  Within a year of William Morrow acquiring the book rights, many people in the USA, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East soon learned about a feisty princess living behind the black veil of Saudi Arabia.  Readers fell in love with a princess who pushed back against the men of her family and fought the restrictive society of Saudi Arabia.  Little did anyone in the publishing world imagine that millions of readers would embrace the story of one lone princess who was brave enough to tell the world how she, and other women in the kingdom were living.  But the world discovered that there was much to love and admire in Princess Sultana.  Time and again, from an early age, Princess Sultana refused to take no for an answer, holding her own with the best of the men in her family, and most particularly against her cruel brother, Ali.  Later, as an adult, Princess Sultana was determined to make life better for her two daughters, and so her struggles continued. 

While the princess and I had hoped for such a successful outcome with her story, we were admittedly surprised and delighted that the risks she took brought so much personal reward.  Over the years the book has thrived, and even today there is a whole new generation of young women (and some men) who are discovering the heart-lifting story of a young woman who fought against the establishment of an unchanging culture, and an entrenched religious system that consistently rules in the favor of men.  We have received thousands of letters from young women from every culture in the world, telling us that Princess Sultana’s story changed their lives, leading them to also fight for the dignity of females worldwide.

Since the publication of the three books about Princess Sultana, I have had fewer occasions to visit with her.  I no longer live in Saudi Arabia, and I no longer spend the month of September in Monte Carlo each year, where she and I used to meet.  In fact, my international travels are fewer now than even a year ago.  But once or twice a year we enjoy lengthy telephone calls, and we make a point of seeing each other every couple of years. 

And so it came to pass that I was able to meet with the princess and several of her family members earlier this year.  We had not seen each other for nearly two years and so one week turned into two weeks and two weeks turned into three weeks.  I had forgotten what it’s like to visit with the royals.  They bring their habits with them when they leave the kingdom.  None go to bed until the wee hours of the morning, and then few get up before early afternoon.  All the women lounge around in robes until someone suggests a shopping trip.  Store managers are approached and asked to open stores around midnight, and many comply because the royals spend more money in one evening that most of us see in a lifetime.  Food is far too abundant.  Large tables are set up all around the villa, with one holding fruit, and another holding salads, and yet another holding main courses, and yet another holding desserts.  Of course there is the table holding fruit beverages, milk, and water. 

There’s so much socialization and gaiety that after a week I had to insist upon a quiet time for the two of us to discuss the upcoming book.  Thankfully, the princess was understanding and complied, telling her family to leave us alone for four hours a day.

And so we discussed the highlights of family happenings and various members, including her brother Ali, her sister Sara, all their children, as well as Princess Sultana’s three beloved grandchildren.  I was amazed to hear the tales of her son’s two children, and pleased when Princess Sultana provided me with three or four highly compelling stories regarding two of her grandchildren that I will be sharing with readers.  (Readers, you will love it!)

Finally we got down to serious business and decided upon the ten Saudi women whose stories will be shared in Princess:  More Tears to Cry.  Due to King Abdullah’s full attention regarding women’s issues in the kingdom, there are some positive stories to relate.  Yet the status of women in Saudi Arabia remains uneven.  While some families push for their daughters to be an important part of Saudi society, the majority of Saudi Arabians do not want their daughters to be involved in public life in the kingdom.  Yes, females are being educated, but there are few jobs for these educated women.  Yes, females know what they want, but still they are under the power of the men of their families.  Yes, many women wish to drive for convenience, but no, they are still forbidden from taking the wheel.

There’s so much to share with readers.  I’ve already begun the writing process and look forward to revealing all that Princess Sultana told me. 

There were other books she and I discussed.  While visiting, I told Princess Sultana about my latest book, YASMEENA’S CHOICE:  A True Story of war, rape, courage and survival, and provided her with a manuscript copy (the book had not yet been published).  The book is more graphic than any I have thus written, and I warned the princess beforehand that there was a chance she might not want to read the book.  (For all of those accustomed to my books, you know that I handle sexual matters and violence quite delicately in my books, for various reasons.  One, I don’t care much for graphic writing, and two, all my heroines are Arabs and Muslims, and such topics are considered totally private in the Muslim world.

While the princess read my manuscript, I read other books I had taken with me.  But we generally read in the same sitting room.  I kept my eye on the princess and watched her wince in shock at certain descriptions in YASMEENA’S CHOICE.  She remains an emotional person and once she even threw all the manuscript pages up into the air.  It took us quite some time to put the pages back in order.  Several times she squealed, other times she sighed. 

When she finished the book she looked at me full in the face and said, “This book aged my heart, Jean Sasson.”  She paused, then continued, “But to tell you the full truth, it is the most important book.”

Little more was said about the book, other than the day before we bade farewell, when she stared at me for a full minute, and said, “That Yasmeena is the bravest girl I have ever known.  I could have never held up to be an actress in those moments.”

I knew what she was talking about, although we never discussed the sexual assaults.  We would have both been too embarrassed.  But I’ve often asked myself that same question.  “Could I be as brave as Yasmeena?”  I do not know the answer and hope that I never find myself in a similar situation where I must test my courage.

And so I said goodbye to my friend once again.  I feel in my heart that I shall see her again, but none of us know what tomorrow might bring.  And so our visit was even more cherished.

I look forward to revealing more details to readers in the upcoming book, Princess:  More Tears to Cry.  I hope you are as intrigued to read the book, as I was to visit Princess Sultana. 

 

 

 

A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival

A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival

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HERE’S A REAL MAN, ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: father of MALALA YOUSAFZAI

Ziauddin Yousafzai, a proud Muslim father of his daughter

Ziauddin Yousafzai, a proud Muslim father of his daughter

MALALA 1

There are great men living among us, but sometimes it take an epic event for their presence to be known outside their limited geography.  

Rarely do men take the lead in fighting for women’s rights.  But I have just read about a man who has been fighting for women’s rights for his entire life.  That man’s name is Ziauddin Yousafzai.  Ziauddin is the Pakistani father of the very famous Malala Yousafzai, his daughter, and the courageous young woman who stood up for the education of girls in Pakistan.  As a result, Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.  

 

As you might have guessed, I just read “I AM MALALA.”  It’s an outstanding book that I recommend to everyone.  There is no more worthy book being sold today.   

Malala is an exceptionally brave young woman.  But, her father was more brave.  There could have been no Malala without Ziauddin, a man of astounding courage who has fought for his entire life for the education of all children in Pakistan, boys and girls.  When Malala was born, no one in the family was happy because she was a baby girl.  But Ziauddin stunned all by not only being happy about his daughter’s birth, but was extremely vocal about his pride to be the father of a daughter.  He insisted that his daughter be included in the family tree, much to the horror of other family members.  (Sadly, in most of the Muslim world, when daughters are born, everyone goes quiet with grief.  When sons are born, celebrations go on for days.) 

And so from the beginning of her life, Ziauddin’s daughter was lavished with love, attention, and books.  From the moment she reached the age of understanding, she knew that her father “had her back” and he would fight to the death to ensure that she, a mere girl in other’s eyes, would be treated equally with her two brothers.  And so Malala grew into her teenage years feeling confident that she had the right to speak her mind, to study, to learn, and to have and pursue dreams.  Ziauddin had taught his daughter how to struggle against injustice.  And Malala learned how powerful a person can be who speaks out against injustice.  Every child born deserves such a life.  

When reading this book, I adored Malala, and I marveled at Ziauddin.  He grew up at a time when women’s feelings  were not even considered, yet he respected women, and was proud to  express his respect for females, insisting that his school be open to girls, too. 

Ziauddin is not only passionate and confident with his beliefs, but he is exceptionally wise about many aspects of life.  Here are just a few tidbits in the book shared by Malala:  “My father also loved to write poetry, sometimes about love, but often on controversial themes such as honor killings and women’s rights.”   

When a Mullah in their village started a campaign against Ziauddin’s school, open to girls and boys, Ziauddin was not afraid to fight back, telling others, ‘Nim Mullah khatrai iman’ or, “A Mullah who is not fully learned is a danger to faith.”  (After living in the Muslim world for many years, I KNOW that it takes extraordinary courage for anyone to speak out against a Mullah.  Even powerful kings and dictators chose their words with care when addressing or discussing a Mullah!) 

When a doctor’s clinic was closed by the Taliban, the doctor approached Ziauddin for advice after the Taliban later offered to reopen the hospital.  Ziauddin advised his friend, “Don’t accept good things from bad people.”  He didn’t believe that a hospital protected by the Taliban was a good thing.  He was right, and not afraid to speak out against the brutal Taliban.

When the Taliban first came to their valley (SWAT) many people welcomed them with open arms, much to Ziauddin’s dismay, for he knew they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Later after the Taliban completely took over and began to murder many people, everyone was forced to flee.  When they returned to their village, they found a letter from a Pakistani soldier condemning the villagers for allowing the Taliban to gain control Swat.  Ziauddin told his daughter, “This is typical.  We people of Swat were first seduced by the Taliban, then killed by them and now blamed for them.  Seduced, killed and blamed.”  In fact, Ziauddin was being generous.  He was never seduced.  In fact, he fought against the Taliban from the first day until the last.

When Ziauddin received death threats from the Taliban, he refused to give up his activities to educate children or to stop warning his friends against cooperating with the Taliban.  Even after his friends were shot in the face by the Taliban, he kept on course.  Everyone believed that Ziauddin would be next.

But it was his daughter who was shot. 

After the attempted murder of Malala, Ziauddin “…argued that all he had ever wanted was to create a school in which children could learn….”  “My only ambition,” Ziauddin said, is to educate my children and my nation as much as I am able.  But when half of your leaders tell lies and the other half negotiating with the Taliban, there is nowhere to go.  One has to speak out.”

Although Ziauddin was unusually courageous, he was often frustrated, once saying, “I have a school, but I am neither a khan nor a political leader.  I have no platform.  I am only one small man.”

I beg to differ:  Ziauddin, you are NOT a small man.  You are a lion of a man, the greatest of men, one of the most courageous men I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about — a man unafraid to go against entrenched ideas and prejudices fully embraced by your society.  

When Mala’s mother continued to believe that women should not go out of the house, and should not speak to any man not of her family, Ziauddin told his wife:  “Pekai, purdah is not only in the veil, purdah is in the heart.”

Ziauddin kept a famous poem (written by Martin Niemoller, who lived in Nazi Germany) in his pocket:

First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.

I have discovered that it is very difficult to bring change to our world.  And, as hard as women might fight against abuses, we cannot bring this kind of massive social change until men stand by our side.  If only every thinking men would come forward like Ziauddin Yousafzai to fight for women’s rights.  If only every man would live as Ziauddin Yousafzi has lived, soon we could defeat the abuses man inflicts upon women.

Ziauddin Yousafzi is a modest man, calling himself a “small man,” but in fact he is one of the greatest men ever to walk this earth. 

We should all nominate Ziauddin Yousafzi for next year’s Nobel peace prize, and for the TIMES man of the year.  We need to hold him up as the kind of hero young boys should emulate. 

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a real man.  

    

 

  

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Making a Difference…really!

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My latest book just published: YASMEENA’S CHOICE: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over twenty years since I met the young woman you will know as Yasmeena in my latest book, YASMEENA’S CHOICE.  There is a long history attached to this book.  I had written THE RAPE OF KUWAIT soon after Iraq invaded Kuwait August 1990, and the book became an instant bestseller.  Seven months later, after Saddam’s forces fled from Kuwait to Iraq, I flew into Kuwait on the FREEDOM FLIGHT.  I then remained in that war-torn country for nearly a month, traveling and meeting Kuwaitis and others who had survived a brutal occupation.  To my surprise, the Kuwaiti government gave me full access to women of various nationalities who had been kidnapped and held in Kuwaiti neighborhood prisons, as sex slaves by the Iraqi soldiers.  After entering the villa where the young women were being housed, I met one of the most courageous young women I’ve ever known.  While I met a number of rape victims, Yasmeena was the only rape victim I interviewed who provided me with intimate detail of the brutalities she had endured, and survived.  And, unlike most rape victims, she WANTED her story told.  She insisted, in fact.  I’m never had any person make a stronger impression on me than that young Lebanese woman.  I believed that I would come home from Kuwait and write her story.  But I did not.  I set the book aside.  There were a variety of reasons that I postponed writing the story of Yasmeena, and of the repercussions of war rape.  But the book inside me did not slumber peacefully.  Many were the times I remembered Yasmeena,  and what she had endured.  I remembered her expressive face as she nearly screamed out her story.  I remembered the high sound of her voice as she described scenes one could scarcely imagine.  I remembered the swiftness of her movements as she leapt from her chair, into the air, and then to the chair once again. Her heartrending story was one of the most horrific this author has ever heard.  Yasmeena’s story is timeless, because even as I write these words, vast numbers of innocent women are being raped by men who are claiming their bodies as war booty.  I have alerted my readers that YASMEENA’S CHOICE is necessarily graphic, for without the detail provided to me by a war rape victim, none of us could imagine the horror of what so many women have endured.  I hope that you read this important book.  I hope that afterward, you contact your government officials and tell them that you expect all world communities to join forces to instate practical steps to ensure that war rape criminals will receive the harshest possible punishments.  We must stand together and face the perils facing so many innocent girls and women.  I believe that you will agree that all of us have a common duty to the human race to stop the worst offenses of war and violence.   

 

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Yasmeena’s Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival

Yasmeena's Choice:  A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival

True story of a young Lebanese woman, caught in the madness of war and violence.

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