” Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood” by Fatema Mernissi

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We end the week dedicated to women, with one of the most important authors in the entire Islamic world. In ” Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood”, Fatema Mernissi will tell us about her childhood spent in a harem in Fez, debunking western myths and at the same time making us truly understand Arab feminism.

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

” I was born in 1940 in a harem in Fez, a Moroccan city … ”. Thus Fatema Mernissi, one of the most eloquent female voices in the Islamic world, opens this intense childhood memory. The harem where little Fatema grows is very different from the fabulous menageries of the sultans: it is quite a large, splendid house full of flowered courtyards and fountains, rooms muffled by curtains and rugs, where the families of two brothers live together with many women with them related and servants. Dreams of Trespass is the provocative story of a girl confronting the mysteries of time and place, gender and sex in the recent Muslim world.

Memories of life

” Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood” is an exciting fresco of Morocco during its cultural revolution. Indeed, Fatema will be the first girl in the family to attend a French-inspired high school, widening distances more and more with the past. The novel offers us a very significant and gradual image of the changes present in Morocco in those years, also shedding light on how this transition has been regular and continuous over time. Just think of the different conceptions of right and wrong between the mother of the protagonist and the daughter-in-law, Lalla Mani, strict guardian of traditions, even if unfavorable for women.

Fatema Mernissi
Fatema Mernissi

The socio-cultural aspects are also very interesting, such as the different female freedom in the countryside and in the city. In fact, the book reveals the incredible detachment between city and country life, in which, for example, it was not mandatory for women to cover themselves. Very curious how, when the rural population will move to the city, paradoxically it will wear the veil to feel more citizen. In the novel, the author also tells of the love for Asmahan, of rituals such as the visit to the hammam and the tendency of Moroccan women towards spells and concoctions of different types. Also very particular is his story of Gnawa, lived firsthand in an era where he still kept the spirit side intact.

All in one harem

However, the real protagonist of the text is without a shadow of a doubt the harem, the only place where anything can happen. In those years it was starting to debate the actual usefulness of this custom which, as the author points out over and over again, is completely different from the idea spread in the West. In the Mernissi harem, for example, more women live, however all related and who in turn are divided into two families, that of Fatema and that of cousin Samir, his trust appears.

Fatema Mernissi

This place then assumes, rather, that of a large family home, within which more women are confined living together. The only real difference between this “institution” and that present in some particularly retrograde realities of our country, was linked to the possibility, in Islam, of having up to 4 wives.

Life feminism

Fatema Mernissi’s novel manages to show the feminist struggle from a human point of view, without ever losing style or falling into academic ideology. ” Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood” has in fact one of the gifts that we appreciate most of all: to convey a great message in a natural way and for everyone. The book itself is nothing but the memories of a young girl, but precisely for this reason they manage to bring the message without forcing the hand. The author manages to show us what she saw at 10 years of age, not to show us the reason for feminism, but by making us understand it, which is definitely more important for real steps forward.

Fatema Mernissi

By reading this novel we will be able to fully identify with the struggle of the Moroccan women of that time, whose greatest dream was to be free, nothing more. Let me be clear: none of the male characters proves to be “bad”, but all of them have difficulty in realizing that time needs to run its course and what comes from the past is not always good and right.

We are proud to have finished this week by bringing you this incredible author, we have long been waiting for the right opportunity to read one of her books, we must thank you readers for the push. In this regard, two interviews will be released this weekend, the theme of the following week, however, we would like you to suggest it to us. Follow us on our facebook, YouTube and Instagram page, every like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East.

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