We are very lucky to have Laila El-Sissi living right here in the South Bay Area. Laila is the author of Out from the Shadow of Men, A Memoir. She chronicles her life growing up in a very strict Muslim house in Egypt back in the '60s and '70s. For us native Westerners, it's a fascinating look at what it was like for Laila and her older sister. We simply don't have any idea the kind of inequality and inequity that young women faced in this kind of home. In fact, if you talk to Laila about it, much has gone unchanged in the last 40-50 years.
Laila focuses on her teenage years. There is an old Arabic proverb that goes: "Better a shadow of a man, than a shade of a wall." And here is a blurb from the book that says: "The Arabic proverb has long described the plight of women in Egypt. Like the classic Pyramids of Giza, the culture of Egypt for the most part stands unchanged. Egyptian men continue to use the banner of Islam to justify controlling women. Laila and her sister Rawyia find the courage and joie de vivre to risk their lives and stand up to forces seemingly as large, strong and ancient as the pyramids so they can choose their future."
Ellen Bass, author of The Courage to Heal, says: "Some books are important. Some books you can't put down. Out from the Shadow of Men is both..." I have to agree with Ellen's assessment. This book is like the movie Selma that I recently saw. That movie is a must-see. And Laila's book is a must-read. If you want to know how it was for a teenage girl to grow up in an ultra-conservative Islamic home, then Out from the Shadow of Men is for you. Local book clubs - think about adding this one to your lists. I think Laila might be available to attend a few of your meetings.