Benedict, Helen. “Sand Queen”, Soho Press, 2011.
Women at War
“Sand Queen” is a collection of “stories of hope, courage and struggle” and told from the “perspective of women at war” and written as a novel. War has terrible effects on everyone and here we get a unique look at how it effects women and more specifically, the women who are directly involved.
Kate Brady is 19 and she has joined the army with the reason of bringing honor to her family and bringing democracy to the Middle East. She soon is located in Iraq in the desert and guarding a prison. She meets Naema Jassim, an Iraqi medical student whose father and brother are detained at Kate’s camp. The two women agree to help each other but the war looms heavy on them and the good intentions become strained. Kate has to face daily threat and she finds that as a woman, she is also in danger from the men in her unit who are looking for a good time. Naema has to deal with being bombed and being hungry as well as the lost of home and family. Both women struggle to survive and their lives are affected deeply by war.
I think we all realize that women in service have to deal with sexual harassment and fear of sexual assault and then we see how the army reacts to this. Kate faces everything that represents somewhat brutal sex while Naema stands to lose everything including her life. She hates Americans and we easily understand why. Of the two, Kate’s character is better developed as is her story. This is a relatively short book (300 pages) but it says a lot and I bet if it had another 200 pages, it would say much more. We can more less where the story is going so there are really no surprises. The book is totally informative and the style is fine but I suspect that not too many people want to read about war. The author says things as they are and holds nothing back but her writing style is nothing special. I see how the book can also be a way to promote change in the military and while the story is well told, I have the feeling that not too many will be interested in a book like this but then that is their loss.