When I visited Riyadh last year, I spent time with the young men who hang out in the coffee shops of fashionable Tahliya Street. They knew all about Girls of Riyadh, which stirred up a storm when it came out in Arabic in 2005. Its frank depiction of the frustrated lives of Saudi women and the rank chauvinism of Saudi men, predictably aroused the wrath of religious conservatives. A group of Saudi citizens filed a lawsuit against its young author, Rajaa Alsanea, alleging that she had slandered Saudi society. (She herself was safely ensconced in the US, where she is studying to be a dentist.) But the case was eventually thrown out and the book, although officially banned, was widely available.
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