This is a memoir about life of women in Morocco living under the social and physical constraints of the harem. There are many happy moments as women live with joy and companionship within this framework. Mernissi is a wonderful writer – her descriptions of her relatives and family life are colourful and affectionate.
Her carefree life ends with end of childhood; she learns of her powerlessness in this male dominated society. She is told by her female elders, “Childhood is when the difference does not matter. From now on, you won’t be able to escape it. You’ll be ruled by the difference. The world is going to turn ruthless.” But the door is open, just a crack for this modern educated girl who was told, “If you can’t get out, you are on the powerless side.”
Change came from within and without; Mernissi grew up to be an educated person with the freedom to teach at a university, to choose her life and to write books like this. She walked out the door with perception and the support of women who did not get her chance.
Many of her books are feminist and scholarly interpretations of Islam, very accessible to non-Islamic readers. The next book is a more recent one that I also enjoyed.