August 12, 2008

American author envisions herself as a Saudi man

American author envisions herself as a Saudi man in first novel
Zoe Ferraris’ Ukrainian American grandmother thought her so spoiled that she would only marry a sheik.

“When Americans think of Saudi Arabian men, they think they’re abusers and they’re cruel, that they enjoy the gender segregation or enforce it,” Ferraris, 38, said. “And sure, some of them do, but most just have to live with it.”

Ferraris felt drawn to portraying such a man. Ferraris minutely details the "man's" inner thoughts.

When out in public, Ferraris always wore the veil and traveled with a male escort. She still often ended up on the wrong side of the religious police because of her skin color.

Still, she saw enough of Jidda to faithfully render it in “Finding Nouf”: the overbearing public art dotting the city’s roundabouts, the well-air-conditioned modern meeting places where women could forgo veils and a market selling unnecessary jackets to the showy Saudi rich.

Ferraris initially hesitated to write from the perspective of a Saudi man, worried about questions of authenticity. Her first crack at writing a novel was a straightforward mystery, set in Saudi Arabia, told from the perspective of an American woman. It had “car chases and interrogation scenes -- everything but a nuclear bomb.”

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