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24 July 2013

'The Proof of the Honey' by Salwa Al Neimi translated by Carol Perkins

A book that celebrates female sexuality, desire and self determination. The language used to describe the search for words that describe female desire and passion was like eating a box of my favorite chocolates

'The Proof of the Honey' seems to talk about sexual discovery but that is only at first.  Then the book's focus changes to the language of sex (personal and public) as well as eroticism and how they are all linked to long neglected Arab erotic works.  Funny enough, it was not the sex that caught my attention, it was the author's language.  Carol Perkins is a sensitive woman, if this translation captures the feeling and rhythm of Salwa Al Neimi.  The language used to describe sex and passion is elegant and straight forward.  Even the language used to describe the search for words that describe female desire and passion was like eating a box of my favorite chocolates.

The author soon introduces us to a sexual partner she calls "The Thinker".  At first he may be a real man and then I realize that he need not be a real man, but rather thoughts, intelligence and memory.  Never the less, Salwa Al Neimi is gentle and explicit at the same time with herself and with her reader.  She takes nothing for granted and questions everything about her own sexuality.  In this way, I too questioned and probed my sex life.  It is a feminine book.  It is a book that celebrates female sexuality, desire and self determination.  One of the first conversations I had with my husband as I read this book was about the adequacy of language today when it comes to women and sex.  I felt it was lacking but my husband argued that what was lacking was the courage for women to use out loud what is available, even in western Europe.  How delicious that such a slim book would take my knowledge of my marriage further by encouraging a new conversation with my husband of many years.

The book is a confession of an Arab woman's sexual discovery.  She is led by beautiful literature and language, though she admits that modern language is not always adequate to describe or explain a woman's desire and experience.  'The Proof of the Honey' is courageous in that it takes back what has been taboo for the past 40 years from Arabs of both sexes, sexual freedom; this includes sex in the bedroom, on the streets, in language, literature, academia and in the mind (creativity, imagination).  As she says in the end... "sex is not the scandal, the secret is the scandal".  How true.

A friend of mine read the book around the same time I did.  She told me she had a difficult time not thinking of the narrator as a whore.  I had two replies to that.  First, if the narrator were a man, no one would call him a whore (or the male equivalent... is there a word?)  Second, then we are all whores.  We all have an imagination and most adults have a sex life, satisfactory or not.  We all have curiosity, desire and the wish to know and be known.  Moreover, most of us would like to seek sexual satisfaction without shame.  Literature explores with us some of these paths as Arab erotic literature and erotic works from other cultures can attest.  Humans both male and female may then explore sex in their own lives without shame.

Salwa Al Neimi 
ISBN: 9781933372686 


  1. Anonymous13:59

    After a review like this, how can I resist?

  2. Thank you, glad you were tempted to read it. I look forward to your reaction...

  3. Anonymous06:01

    I am not sure if I am using the correct term, but I think the "symbolism" of the title is very beautiful.
    Your friend might be a good person. But her reaction does not help the continuing double standard issues. A woman who embraces her passion and sexual discovery makes for an amazing lover and partner.

  4. A whore? Heaven forbid a woman actually enjoys sex and ::gasp:: writes a book about it. You're right that the same accusation would not be lobbed at a man.