girls of riyadh
The Saudi Arabian National Day is here, and we want to celebrate all the intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity that has flowed out of the country. Saudi Arabian literature has long poked into the unknown delivering stories, spirits, and sentiments that peek and bare straight into our souls. From novels challenging the status quo to romantic letters meant only to be written for the stars, here are 14 crucial and relevant novels written by Saudi Arabian authors:
Love Stories on al-Asha Street – Gharamiyat aala tareek al-aasha
This book, by author Badriyah al-Bishr, tells the story of three heroines are searching for their own definition of freedom. It takes place in the Manfouha district in Riyadh in the 1970s. The book begins on the same romantic note as the era of black and white films, where the living was easy, people slept outside on the street due to extreme safety, lovers met on rooftops and all was well. However, the three women’s issues begin when religious extremism starts of manifest in 1979, and all their lives get whirlwind-ed.
When Consciousness Ceases – ‘Indama Youthkab Alwaa’i
The young novelist Malak Al-Ogaili writes about the dream of motherhood, talks about Amal’s (the central character in the book) infertility, and its reflection on her and her husband because of traditional society’s pressure. To escape all this, she starts drawing up a fantasy world, exuding of motherhood. What distinguishes this piece of work, is that the writer makes the reader ask the following intriguing question: Is Amal actually experiencing life or is it all made up in her head? Considering she adopts a free-fall method through controlling the narrative speaker until the end of the novel.
A Woman’s Toy… A Man - Loaabat al Mar’a… Rajol
Sarah al-Aliawi tells the enticing story of Nayef, as he wakes up from a long and deep sleep. He hasn’t left his bed since he got married as he spends his days between the walls of this luxurious wing. He had spent the happiest moments of his life by her side. He often compares her to his first wife, regardless if they’re incomparable with regards to beauty. Who is she? And why does she have this spell over him? This is how Aliwai captures the reader instantly.
A Dangerous Woman - Ontha Moufakhakha
This exciting book by Ameera al-Mudi narrates the frantic thoughts of a very dangerous woman, whose deliberations have clouded her judgement. “It would be a feast day for the desperate, the wounded and the mad, and for all these disasters and wars in the world as a result of my emotional failure,” she rants. The heroine is a trouble woman seeking refuge from the world telling her what to do, where to go, and how to speak, as her constant saying is “May war again take revenge on my heart.”
A Thousand Women in Me – Alf Imra’a fi Jasadi
Written by Rehab Saad, this would be her second novel after Chess Women (Nisa’ al-Shataranj). In this piece, the writer tackles some of the manifestations of injustice suffered by women because of societal ignorance. Saad also reveals other different faces of women in society, and shows their ability to form and adapt to different situations of life.
The Dove’s Necklace – Tawk Al Hamam
When a dead woman is discovered in Abu Al Roos, one of Mecca's many alleys, no one will claim the body because they are ashamed by her nakedness. As we follow Detective Nassir's investigation of the case, the secret life of the holy city of Mecca is revealed. Undertaking formidable issues with redolent writing, Raja Alem discloses a society obliged to heartless old traditions, and uneasily toying with new ones. Alem draws a portrait of city so great, you’ll want to read the book over and over again.
More than Ladders – Akthar min Salalim
The story revolves around two girls, one of whom gets out of a short love experience to a deeper and more mature one, and moves from Riyadh to Los Angeles on a journey of self-exploration. The other goes on a search for her identity, her homeland and her father, who she lost 20 years ago. Their stories intersect, as they each discover the bitterness of reality as opposed to the dream labyrinth.
Girls of Riyadh – Banat Riyadh
This book by the brilliant Rajaa al-Sanea tells the story of four Saudi girls through the form of emails. Through their narration, we pick up on the relationship between men and women in Saudi Arabia. Their lives as college girls are portrayed and how they navigate through a society looking for love but being limited by what’s allowed and not allowed. Such a beautiful and important book that has been translated into more than 40 languages.
I Loved You More Than I Should Have - Ahbabtouka Akthar Mima Yanbaghi
This novel by Atheer al-Abdallah al-Namshi deeply conveys the feelings, thoughts and contradictions that dwell deep inside a woman in love. The beautiful account of rantings provided in the novel speak to true love’s purpose, and even creates a connection with the readers as they explore their own trails and tribulations. Even if you pay the account, you won't get what you want. (less)
Supervisor – Almoushraf
This book is the first narrative experience of the journalist Obeid al-Suhaimi, which was published by Meskliani house in Tunisia. This is a piece worthy of celebration, because it celebrates fiction and history together, and the intersection birthed has formed dimensions and connotations, and raised questions of creativity, space, time and reality. The book has also elevated the relationship of history with the story through the visions existing in the minds of the characters within the novel, and the vision of the narrator and its narratives.
Speaking to the mental health taboo that is prevalent to our present day, this book talks about the psychological disorder that is schizophrenia. Ghada Aboud, the author, reason for writing about the mental disorder is due to the immensity in how it has been romanticized and often connected to genius or talent. The way this book has been written is quite interesting as Abou uses areas of Jeddah to as metaphors for the illness at the start. An important and intriguing piece of work, this is.
A Saudi Refugee – Laje’ Saoudi
Adel bin Ali Al-Ghamdi’s novel delves into the depths of the human soul between the contradictions of life, the flanks of the homeland and the diaspora of asylum. As a refugee dies in search for life, alone with no safety or freedom, a stranger with no howling wife or crying daughter.
The Poetic Works of Fawziyya Abu Khalid
A beautiful compliation of the Saudi poet’s most memorable and relevant poems written throughout her run. One of the them includes the famous piece, Until When Will They Abduct You on Your Wedding Night? – ‘Illa Mata Yakhtifunaki Lailat Al Aours, which is a sound critic of outdated marriage traditions. Abu Khalid was certainly ahead of her time
Saudi in Beirut 1955 - Saoudi fi Beirut 1995
Written by Abdul Rahman Suleiman Alnizawi Aljahni, he talks about the suffering of a generation that lived in difficult living conditions, which forced them to move abroad and work outside their countries. The title Saudi in Beirut 1955 was chosen by the writer because the capital was well-known in the region at that time, and many Saudis traveled there to study, start businesses and seek treatment. The writer also touched on the history and important events witnessed in Beirut by linking them to the history of the central character of the Saudi man.