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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Rember the post Lying Hurts The Liar? In The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, the whole plot revolves around a huge lie, and the toll that protecting that lie takes on the lives of everyone it touches.

in the middle of a huge snowstorm, Dr. David Henry’s wife goes into premature labor and he is forced to deliver her in his nearby clinic because he can’t get to the hospital in the snowstorm. To his surprise, he delivers twins. The boy is fine and healthy, the baby girl clearly has Down’s Syndrome. It is the 1960’s.

He hands the baby to the nurse, and tells her to take the baby to a home for Down’s syndrome children and adults. When his wife, Norah, regains consciousness, he tells her she had twins, but that the girl was born dead.

Meanwhile, Caroline, the spinster nurse, takes the baby to the home, but when she sees the lack of caring in the “care” of the patients, she makes an instant decision to walk away. She keeps the baby. She never goes back to the clinic. She drives away and creates a new life for herself and the baby, a joyful life, the life she was waiting for.

To protect his secret, Dr. Henry maintains a distance between himself and his grieving wife. Norah never gets over the loss of her daughter, and she never gets over the change in her relationship with her husband. She knows something is not right, and no matter what she does, she can’t fix it. For a while she drinks. Later she pulls herself together, gets a job, ends up taking over the business (a travel agency) because she has thrown herself into her work.

The son, the healthy baby, grows up in a family where things are not right. His mother loves him, but is distracted by her grief. His father loves him, but is distracted by the energy it takes to protect his terrible secret. It is a family, but a family whose connections to one another are damaged by the tragic secret.

The discarded daughter, meanwhile, grows up surrounded by love and a family who makes a life out of creating opportunities for Down’s Syndrome children.

Late in the book, there is both some resolution and redemption. Things work out, but I find myself thinking of all the wasted years, years of unhappiness and loss, years of happiness sacrificed, brought about by one great big lie. When you read the book, you understand his reasons, and you know how easily, given the times, you and I might have made the same decision.

I think the doctor would have been happier had he risked telling his wife. He often wanted to. He didn’t.

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May 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Communication, Community, Family Issues, Fiction, Generational, Marriage, Relationships, Social Issues, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Hats off to Saudi Women

Last week in the May 10th Kuwait Times, Dr. Sami Alrabaa wrote a fascinating article on Saudi Women, Saudi Arabia and some shifts in press coverage in Saudi Arabia.

This is how the article starts:

Anti-Woman Culture

More and more Saudi women are speaking out against preachers in their country. Fatma Al-Faqih, a columnist at the daily Saudi Al-Watan accuses preachers (April 17) of “denigrating women” and “inciting discrimination against women.” “Day in day out, our preachers flood us with accusations against women and beg men to defend the virtues of society that women corrupt,” Al-Faqih writes. This “anti-woman culture”, Al-Faqih continues, causes women to feel mentally and psychologically inferior, “like a quarrelsome child who must be constantly supervised, intimidated, and punished into performing her duties.”

It is also unprecedented that the Saudi print media are allowing women to air their indignation and frustration. Al-Faqih also writes, “Women are good Muslims as men are. But our preachers insist on producing a distorted picture of women, which has nothing to do with true Islam. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) never discriminated against women. He respected them. He valued their opinions and occasionally sought their advice. He treated them as full-fledged human beings. Our preachers however, depict women as spoilt minors who have got to be constantly instructed to behave themselves. They cannot be trusted.”

Al-Faqih also wonders, “Where is it written in the holy Quran and Hadeeth that women are not allowed to drive their own cars? Where is it stated that women are forbidden to travel alone, leave their houses, or travel alone with the family’s chauffeur? Where is it stated that women are forbidden to have a passport without permission from their male closest relatives, forbidden to go to school or university without permission, forbidden to take a job without permission, forbidden to open a bank account without permission, forbidden to name their own children without their men’s approval?”

Further, Al-Faqih complains, “Where is that divine law which does not allow women to sue their husbands for divorce? Where is it written that women’s voice is a sexual organ and hence she is not allowed to speak in public and express her concerns? Where is that sacred law that does not allow women to keep their own children after divorce? Where is it written in Islam that women are not allowed to vote or run for office?”

Al-Faqih concludes, “Are we in Saudi Arabia a special brand of Muslims? In other Muslim countries, women have become presidents (in Bangladesh for example), prime ministers (in Turkey and Pakistan), ministers in Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Kuwait and other Arab countries. In all Muslim countries, women have the right to vote and run for office. No, we are not a special brand of Muslims. It is our preachers who interpret Islam their own way.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.

My comment: When I lived in Saudi Arabia, my eyes were opened. My Saudi Arabian women friends were SO smart, and they really knew their Quran. They also knew hadith, and they knew the weight of each hadith, which were strong and which were weak. They didn’t just memorize suura; they thought about them, they discussed them and analyzed them.

Through them, I understoon Islam in a whole new way, and understood the revolutionary thinking of the Prophet, who was kind to women, took council from women, and treated women fairly. In an age when female babies were routinely killed, he stood against the tide of tradition, and forbid the killing of female babies, and insisted on rights of inheiritance for females (and this in the 7th century).

And no one found it more ironic than the Saudi women that Saudi Arabia has become a worldwide symbol for repression of female rights. My Saudi sisters claim that in the birthplace of Islam, Islam has become distorted, a weapon used against women.

My Saudi women friends often told me I was not required to wear a scarf. My embassy told me the same thing, that it was a voluntary sign of submission to Islam. The embassy also told me to carry a scarf, and if accosted by the mutawa,(religious police, the “The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Defense Against Vice” or something like that) to put it on until he was out of view, and then to take it off again, that the scarf was not mandatory. The mutawa felt differently, and would boom out in loud, offended voices: “MADAME, COVER YOUR HAIR!”

I would comply. But the unfairness never failed to rouse my ire. Excuse me? My hair might cause YOU to have a lustful thought? You control YOURSELF and your thoughts, and let ME worry about my morality.

So my scarf – errr hat – is off to these Saudi women who have the bravery to write these well thought out position papers to the Saudi papers.

The interesting thing to me is that the Saudi press is printing the women’s complaints now. . . perhaps, insh’allah, some changes are in the air.

And a muse – So when a Saudi woman comes to Kuwait, for example, or to France – is she allowed to drive? We know it is illegal for her to drive in Saudi Arabia, but is it also immoral for her to drive in Saudi Arabia? Or is it immoral for her to drive anywhere? So like is it immoral for all us women to be driving anywhere?

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, News, Political Issues, Random Musings, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments