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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
A woman and a girl wash at a tap at a temporary displacement camp set up next to a Kurdish checkpoint on June 13, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Found this photo while editing Jeffrey Kaplan’s piece on the Sunni-Shi’itie showdown, "The Iraqi Fall of Saigon?"
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A woman and a girl wash at a tap at a temporary displacement camp set up next to a Kurdish checkpoint on June 13, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Found this photo while editing Jeffrey Kaplan’s piece on the Sunni-Shi’itie showdown, "The Iraqi Fall of Saigon?"
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A woman and a girl wash at a tap at a temporary displacement camp set up next to a Kurdish checkpoint on June 13, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Found this photo while editing Jeffrey Kaplan’s piece on the Sunni-Shi’itie showdown, "The Iraqi Fall of Saigon?"

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Saudi Girls… Waiting

Rajaa Alsanea

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

OK. I had begun this post with a long-winded preface about SOF’s coverage of Islam, how much I’ve learned, the good I hope it’s doing, and all the rest. Nix that.

The fact of the matter is I long for a complementary, not-so-academic vision of Muslims — people I can relate to as a Westerner rather than continually being aware of that sense of otherness. For me, there’s no better path to this understanding than through pop culture. When it comes to the Middle East, in particular, Saudi Arabia, Rajaa Alsanea’s book Girls of Riyadh does exactly that. Her writing is not heavy-handed or overly didactic, but lithe with impact through colloquial language and subject matter that all blossoming young adults can identify with.

Although it’s fiction, one learns more about the lived reality of youth culture and the integration of Islam among the upper crust of Saudi socialites than the many news reports and documentaries that are “good for you.” In some ways, I found myself identifying with the plights of these four (five counting the narrator?) young women, their longing for independence and community of family, love, and career.

The cultural differences are vast and deep, but tellingly so are the similarities. I only wish I could read Arabic so that I could savor all the subtleties of language and slang used in Alsanea’s original text Banat al-Riyadh. The book’s a clever, fun, page-turning expedition. You’ll buzz through it in no time.

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