In the Country of Men
(UPDATE, 04.01.08: The BPP Book Club is now in session.)
The ancient tale of Scheherazade — in which a beautiful woman saves her own neck by spinning tales for a murderous sultan — is sometimes seen as symbolic of the civilizing power of the feminine. But in Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men, the inaugural BPP Book Club selection, the mother of the 9-year-old narrator — herself a furious prisoner of an increasingly repressive society — has quite a different take on the story:
Nothing angered Mama more than the story of Scheherazade. I had always thought Scheherazade a brave woman who had gained her freedom through inventing tales and often, in moments of great fear, recalled her example.
"You should find yourself another model," Mama once began. "Scheherazade was a coward who accepted slavery over death."
Our online discussion of the book is coming up on March 28, a week from Friday, but I'm hoping to talk to some of you who have been reading it — about the cowardice of Scheherazade or any other aspect of the book. Drop a line in the comments if you're up for that, and we can set up a time for a quick audio interview.
Hey, we're official! The BPP Book Club now has its own e-mail address.