Memoirs from the Women's Prison-- Complete
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 10:49AM

There are some book titles which catch the eye of people passing by and folks cannot help but comment.  Memoirs from the Women's Prison by Nawal El Saadawi is one of the books.  I read this book while waiting for w squared to begin, on the airplane, and while waiting for my car to get serviced.  One of my new favorite t-shirt says "Speak Justice."  When I wear the t-shirt while reading the book, several folks did double takes.  This amused me.   My favorite exchange about this book went something like this:

Woman: Is that book any good?

Me: Yes, it is about a woman in Egypt who is imprisoned for her writing which questioned the government.

Woman: I have really gotten into women's prison writing.  The torture, the beatings, the harsh conditions are more than people can bear.  How do these women survive?

Me (feeling the need to clarify):  This woman has actually not been beaten or tortured. Her writing is powerful because she describes being in prison without explanation.  She spends her day in a cell with a lot of other women and has not seen her family in over a month.

Woman (looking very puzzled): How can it be a prison without torture?

I did not know how to respond to that comment.  What I do know is that this book is incredible. I got the book from Beth with the inscription, "Inspiration to live aligned with your passion, integrity, and conviction."  The book delivered on that promise.  There are several passages that illustrate the power of writing; how a state's restriction and response to the written word impacts freedom and democracy.  What does it say about a society when the government can say things are fair and just while folks are put in prison for their thoughts?  The images of the cramped prison cell, the poor plumbing, and the writer's transformation made me feel as though I was with her the entire time.

This book is my second piece for the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge.  I learned a lot about the Egyptian government and prison system.  Even though it has changed, there are lots of similarities to the United States.  I found this book timely  given the war in Iraq and my growing awareness that there are many nuances and implications of laws, bills, and speeches which lie beneath the surface.

Recommend to a friend: YES!

Article originally appeared on Beastmomma (
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