Khashoggi, Soheir 1947(?)–
Khashoggi, Soheir 1947(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1947, in Alexandria, Egypt; daughter of Mohammed (a physician) and Samiha Khashoggi; married a Lebanese doctor, c. 1972 (marriage ended); married a Lebanese businessman, c. 1979 (divorced, 1989); children: (first marriage) Samiha (daughter); (second marriage) three daughters. Education: Attended San Jose State University and American University of Beirut; Interior Design Center of Beirut, degree. Religion: Muslim.
ADDRESSES: Home—Greenwich, CT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Forge, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Artist, interior designer, and writer. Women for Women, member of the board.
Mirage, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Mosaic, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Nadia's Song, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Soheir Khashoggi was born into one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia; her brother, Adnan Khashoggi, is a famous billionaire businessman, and her nephew, the late Dodi al Fayed, was the boyfriend of Britain's Princess Diana. She spent much of her childhood in relatively liberal Egypt (where she was born) and attended Western schools, so when she returned to Saudi Arabia and entered into an arranged marriage she sharply felt the strictures that the conservative Islam of Saudi Arabia put on her life. At age twenty-six, she convinced one of her brothers to give permission for her to leave the country (a woman cannot leave Saudi Arabia without the permission of her husband or a male relative), took her daughter, and started a newer, freer life.
Khashoggi's first career was painting, but in 1996 she began publishing novels about the experiences of Muslim women. Her first book, Mirage, is set in a fictional country called al-Remal that bears striking similarities to Saudi Arabia. The book's protagonist, Amira Badir, is thrilled at first when her parents arrange a marriage to Prince Ali Ashad for her, but she quickly discovers that the prince is not a perfect husband. He beats her, drinks heavily, and lusts after boys. With the help of a French doctor Amira escapes al-Remal, changes her identity, and moves to the United States, but she still lives in fear of Ali and his "security" forces. "Khashoggi paints in glamorous and startling colors the segregated 'women's world' of traditional upper-class Islamic culture," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, and Booklist reviewer Emily Melton praised her as "a natural-born storyteller who quickly engages her reader in a tale that is stylish, suspenseful, and entertaining."
Khashoggi's second novel, Mosaic, is about a Muslim woman already settled in the United States. Dina Ahmed runs a floral-design shop in New York City, where she lives with her husband, Karim, and three children: teenage son Jordy and eight-year-old twins Ali and Suzanne. Karim is originally from Jordan but has lived in the United States, generally contentedly, for many years. However, after the September 11 terrorist attacks he feels like Americans are becoming prejudiced against Arabs. He also worries about the effects that permissive American society is having on his children, particularly after he finds out that Jordy is gay. Karim estranges himself from Jordy and, seeking to save his two younger children, takes them to Jordan without Dina's permission or knowledge.
Although Dina goes to great lengths to try to bring her children home, "the author wisely avoids both thriller cliches and post-9/11 politics to engage in a series of believable, thought-provoking compromises," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Writing in Booklist, Misha Stone particularly praised "the combination of savvy writing and three-dimensional characters," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed Mosaic "another page-turning tale with a topical theme."
"My books are banned in Saudi Arabia," Khashoggi told Scotsman interviewer Susan Mansfield,"because I'm an Arab woman, I'm not supposed to talk about the culture, not supposed to talk about love. It's not something to be ashamed of to express your feelings, to say what's on your mind, and work to help others."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 1, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Mirage, p. 587; September 15, 2004, Misha Stone, review of Mosaic, p. 208.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Mosaic, p. 706; May 1, 2005, review of Nadia's Song, p. 498.
People, April 29, 1996, Joanne Kaufman, "Banned in Her Homeland, Supported in Her Home," p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, September 11, 1995, "Spanning Two Worlds," p. 16; November 20, 1995, review of Mirage, p. 65; October 4, 2004, review of Mosaic, p. 69.
Scotsman, November 18, 2003, Susan Mansfield, interview with Khashoggi.