Last week I wrote about the importance of women in my life—especially as supporters of my book, East of Mecca, and of me in my relatively new career as a writer. This week I want to acknowledge the critical role men have played in my life as a writer—and to express my gratitude.
It was a man who first suggested that my story be told as a movie, after hearing my experiences in Saudi Arabia. The idea appealed to me as a way of accomplishing my mission to enlighten a large audience about the appalling circumstances of women living within the Kingdom. I decided to tell the story in a way that would create a sense of empathy for those who live their lives hidden beneath veils and behind walls.
I immediately enrolled in evening screenwriting courses at Northwestern University and began formulating the script. There were ten of us in the class, and our screenplays were as different in genre as were our ages and backgrounds—young men writing comedy, a middle-aged woman writing mystery, several young women writing romance, a burly former cop writing a detective thriller, and me writing drama. Every week in class, we shared what we had written. The night I knew for sure that I was on the right track was when the ex-cop proclaimed, “This is definitely not a chick-flick!”
Just as I wanted to write East of Mecca in a way that observed and presented the abuses fundamental to oppression without blaming Islam, I wanted to illuminate the negative repercussions of skewed power dynamics in relationships—wherever they occur—without bashing men. Feedback from the male perspective was invaluable to my process.
Over the many years of writing and rewriting East of Mecca as a novel—I had the continued support of my husband, sons, and male writing group buddies. During the creation process, many of my readers were men, some who also read and reread as part of my editing team.
My webmaster is a man, who was also part of my creative team (photographer, cover designer, and interior book designer) when time came to actually publish. Three of my four endorsements were men.
Since my book came out, I’ve had many male readers. Old and new friends, former high school classmates, and total strangers have bought the book and supported me through comments, thoughtful feedback, and comprehensive reviews on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads. The majority of book clubs I’ve been invited to attend were comprised only of women, but two included men with many insightful, sensitive comments. My husband, son, friends, current and former male patients have attended my presentation at the Evanston Public Library, my launch at Women and Children First, and my reading at the Book Cellar.
For all these men and their support, I am forever grateful. Over the past year, when I’ve spoken about the horrifying experiences of women in Saudi Arabia and other areas of the Middle East (including honor killings, child marriages, and female genital mutilation), I am always asked, “Do you think it will ever change for the better?”
My answer is, “I hope so.” But I know that for real change to occur it will take courageous men of all ages adding their voices to the chorus of those speaking up for the rights of all women and girls everywhere—and demanding an end to the pandemic violence against women and girls.
It will take men like the ones who have supported my journey as a writer, and who have chosen to help me accomplish my mission by reading and promoting East of Mecca. I am honored to have these good men in my life. If women everywhere were as fortunate—the world would be a kinder and safer place for us all.
Finally, I invite you attend a special reading from my novel East of Mecca tonight at The Book Stall in Winnetka, Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7:00 p.m. More information about the event can be found here.