You are cordially invited to attend my book events. The following is a current list of my appearances which I will update over time. For further information about all events please contact the sponsoring organization.
Although Muslim women are increasingly endangered by fundamentalist misogyny, both in Afghanistan and in other Muslim-majority countries, it is crucial to note that many such women (and men) are incredibly heroic in ways that westerners can barely comprehend or match.
Anti-Islamist Muslims and ex-Muslims risk death for expressing ideas that we in the West take for granted. Resisting tradition is considered a crime. Helping someone flee from being 'honour' murdered is a capital crime.
In 1950, 11 years before I arrived in Kabul, Maga Rahmany, a teenager, walked out alone without a male escort. True, she was wearing a burqa but her independence caused tongues to wag. When she accompanied her father, a recently released political prisoner, to the cinema, she removed her burqa in order to watch the film. Relatives threatened to beat them both up.
Finally, Maga went too far: she dared attend her all-female class at Kabul University without wearing a burqa. For this act of defiance, the government placed Maga under house arrest, where she stayed for three and a half years.
How long is the West going to be bound to doing the impossible?
President Hamid Karzai's government is considering bringing back stoning for adultery—and imposing 100 lashes (which is a death sentence) for unmarried people who have had sexual relations.
Thus, Afghan men can marry female children, keep male children as sex-toys, maintain four wives, and visit prostitutes from dawn to dawn.
But it is a capital crime if an Afghan man dishonors another Afghan man by having relations with his female "property;" and, if he has raped the poor wife, she is also to be stoned. Worse yet, if two young Afghans meet and fall in love on their own and have sexual relations, but do not marry—they, too, will be committing a capital crime.
Just imagine what it is like to live in a world where marriages are arranged, often to first or second cousins; where a woman cannot divorce a man, no matter how violent or cruel he and his family may be.
Imagine that if a girl is maritally raped, tortured or forced into prostitution by her mother-in-law (these things happen all the time in Afghanistan).
Dear Reader, Dear Supporter, Dear Colleague:
Fond greetings! Here is a summary of my 2013 work and my intended plans for 2014. I hope and pray that this will encourage you to donate to my not-for-profit organization, The Phyllis Chesler Organization. If my work continues to find favor in your eyes, please open your hearts and wallets and become a partner in the work that I do.
Know that I take no salary. However, I must subsidize an office, a research assistant, webmaster, IT team, office supplies, the endless replacement of the now-indispensable technological devices, book-related expenses, including travel and a publicist—which all add up; without all and any of this I would not be able to function as a thinker, researcher, and commentator.
A private philanthropist and the Middle East Forum Education Fund have committed to fund a bit more than 50% of my $110K annual operating costs. I am hereby humbly and hopefully requesting whatever you can donate towards this shortfall of $50K.
I began my first book, Women and Madness (1972), with a quote from Doris Lessing's The Four-Gated City: "They all looked half drugged or half asleep, dull, as if the creatures had been hypnotized or poisoned…it was painful…to walk among her own kind, looking at them as they were, seeing them, seeing us, the human race, as visitors from a space ship might see them….they went about their lives in a condition of sleepwalking: they were not aware of themselves, of other people, of what went on around them."
Lessing published this in 1969, the same year in which I made world headlines for demanding millions in reparations for women who had been misdiagnosed and mistreated by institutional psychiatry. I did so at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association and on behalf of the newly formed Associated for Women in Psychology.
Lessing was as prickly about the feminist movement as Margaret Mead and Simone de Beauvoir were. In an NPR interview with Lessing when she was "just shy of her 89th birthday, "the writer briskly rejected the label most frequently attached to her: feminist icon—particularly when applied to her 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook. Lessing told NPR:
Let Us Now Praise Aliyah-Bet Hero
A Zionist hero died on November 3.
When Dr. David Gutmann was a young man, he served as an engineer on leaky ships attempting to bring "illegal" Jews into British Palestine. As his reward, he spent time in Acco prison, where he said he "met the best people, the future leaders of the country."
I was privileged to meet with David, an emeritus professor of psychology at Northwestern University Medical School, a number of times. Once we talked, I realized his story had to be told. An interview I did with him appeared in the April 2, 2010 issue of The Jewish Press.
David had a fighting tiger spirit. His younger sister Yona told me that "David was his 'brother's keeper' and a passionate Zionist. Israel was always in his heart. He was a most beloved big brother who took care of me and protected me as a child and as a widow. He made me laugh and think and pleased me in every way. He was always strong and brave as both a man and as a boy. In our family, we all adored him."
In her 15th book, prolific author and iconic second-wave feminist Phyllis Chesler takes her readers on a trenchant and profoundly intimate sojourn, 50 years in the past, to a harrowing chapter in her life.
Chesler's memoir, "An American Bride in Kabul," features a duality of voices—one of a young, winsome, and naive Jewish woman seeking a glorious adventure, the other of a seasoned veteran with a here-and-now retrospective tone replete with an earthywisdom. The author adroitly creates the spellbinding narrative of a consummate raconteuse.
The year is 1961, and the young Chesler's academic proclivities bring her to an American college on a full scholarship. It is there that she meets and falls deeply in love with an exotic man she would later refer to as an "Omar Sharif" lookalike. His name is Abdul-Kareem, a westernized, wealthy Muslim foreign student from Afghanistan.
Very late last night, I posted a group statement that we emailed to President Silverman and also had delivered to his Jerusalem hotel. The passionate prose was written by Dr. Shulamit Magnus; I wrote an Introduction to what was a team effort. This group of women are amazing: Learned, religious, accomplished—and each drawn to holiness, drawn by holiness into what has turned out to be very long journey. I am so proud of us, the signatories on this Open Letter: Susan Aranoff, Miriam Benson, Cheryl Birkner Mack, myself, Bakol Gellar, Rivka Haut, Norma Joseph, Shulamit Magnus, and Vanessa Ochs. More signatories are in process but what matters is what we are saying, not who we are, not how many of us there are.
Sh'ma Israel: Our Inalienable Rights as Jews and as Women
The Jewish Federations of North America are holding their two day meeting in Jerusalem this Sunday and Monday, November 10-11. There is one panel which deals with Women of the Wall, but the panelists chosen are all in favor of the Kotel remaining a haredi shul; they favor banishing the sefer Torah from the ezrat nashim at the kotel and banishing all non-orthodox denominations.
Hamas is Brainwashing Youngsters - It's in the NY Times
For the first time ever, the New York Times had a front page story about how Hamas is brainwashing its high school students into hating Israel by having them read textbooks with false, defamatory, and one-sided narratives.
According to Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren, "The books used by 55,000 (Palestinian) children in eighth to tenth grade do not recognize modern Israel or mention the Oslo Peace Accords."
There is absolutely no hope for peace under such conditions.
Similarly, this past week, the first-ever international Arab Book Fair: Sharjah, took place and I am glad that it did. However, I am not thrilled by the inevitable "The Palestine Festival of Literature" program which was featured without, as they say, the "balancing" corrective of an "Israeli Festival of Literature."
The acclaimed Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University celebrated its 25th Anniversary recently with a discussion in NYC, The Archival is Political: Preserving Women's History at the SallieBingham Center. In 2011, the Center's directorship was endowed by and named in honor of journalist, activist and women's health care pioneer Merle Hoffman. The NYC event on Oct. 28, 2013 featured a conversation with Hoffman, Eleanor Smeal, Carmen Rios, and Jaclyn Friedman. On the Issues is pleased to print here author Phyllis Chesler's introduction of Merle Hoffman at the event.
Remarks by Phyllis Chesler Introducing Merle Hoffman
Merle is my Renaissance Prince playmate, my Viking sister-warrior, a woman who is both practical and wildly imaginative, a business woman who is also a serious intellectual, a woman who loves opera as much as I do, and who, for many years, took me to the opera where we sat together, either spellbound and close to tears—or, off we marched, after the first act. As I always said: "If my hair does not catch fire, there is no reason to be here."
On October 30, 2013, the Statement below was sent to Minister of Religion Naftali Bennett by the current activists and supporters of Women of the Wall to clarify that the current Board of WOW does not represent all Jewish women or even the founders, leaders, and international supporters of Women of the Wall.
The signatories to the Statement (In English and Hebrew, below) are all members of WOW and include directors of the former International Committee for Women of the Wall.
We are determined to remain in the Ezrat Nashim at the Kotel, and will not depart from it in order to move to Robinson's Arch—a site which is not now and has never been the Kotel, even if that site is altered and offered to others.
We cannot call a chumash or a tikkun a sefer Torah. They are all not the same. We cannot call Robinson's Arch the Wall or the Kotel or confuse people by referring to a Third Section of the Wall.
On October 24, 2013, The New York Times published a letter I wrote to them about a subject close to my heart—honor killings. This was in response to their recent article "Policing Village Moral Codes as Women Stream to India's Cities." Click here to read it.
Last week, the Middle East Forum appointed me as one of their Fellows – a great honor indeed!
While doing media for "An American Bride in Kabul," I have also been posting at FB like crazy. Here are some selected favorites.
For 25 years, Women of the Wall (WOW) have stood for one thing and one thing only: The right of women to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. However, the Board of WOW has recently voted to accept Robinson's Arch, an alternative location -- but a group of WOW's founders, both in Israel and the Diaspora strongly disagree with this decision and are attempting to reason with the Board, both privately and publicly. A press advisory will soon go out. People are confused. Is Robinson's Arch the Kotel or not? Is this a defeat or a victory, as claimed? What is really going on and what is at stake?
I have two friends, one a Republican and one a Democrat, to whom I gave pioneer feminist and passionate writer Phyllis Chesler's newest book, An American Bride in Kabul. Both read it. Independently of each other, they said to me, "Every American should read this book!" I have two other friends, one a feminist and one not. Each of them read the book and said, "Every American should read this book!"
What does a 21-year-old American bride of the Jewish faith do in a country like Afghanistan? She probably regrets being there. After all, she is confined to the home, robbed of her American passport, badgered by her husband's extended family and perpetually harangued for her American "moral laxity." The fact that she is Jewish certainly makes matters worse in a country where anti-Semitism is part of the professed faith.
Phyllis Chesler, the well-known academic, author and feminist, tells the story of her life of drudgery and seclusion in Afghanistan and her improbable escape from her oppressors in her latest book An American bride in Kabul.
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, the book is a riveting tale of innocence, naivety, betrayal, torture, patriarchy, violence, misogyny and eventual triumph. Chesler admits that her experience in Afghanistan shaped her feminism, but it also inspired in her great sympathy for the downtrodden women of Afghanistan and other Muslim nations.
Earlier today, on October 10th,2013, 6 Heshvan, this statement was issued by Women of the Wall (WOW) in Jerusalem and in the Diaspora. It clearly states that WOW is not going to compromise for a site that is not the Kotel—even if that site is dubbed "The Wall," or close enough to "The Wall." Here is our statement.
Nearly twenty five years ago, in December, 1988, we and several dozen other Jewish women gathered to pray in the ezrat nashim, the women's section of the kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem. We came from every stream of Judaism: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and from no denomination at all. We prayed and read Torah together, some of us wore tallitot.
When we were cursed and threatened by extremists, the late Rabbi Getz, then administrator of the kotel, noted that our prayer practice did not violate halakhah, Jewish law.
Thereafter, a core of women, Israeli-born and from abroad, constituted a regular women's group prayer group in the women's section of the kotel, a practice continued unbroken for the past twenty five years.
The 92nd St Y was packed and my co-panelists, religious Muslim feminist, Raqel Evita Saraswati, and acclaimed ex-Muslim author, Ibn Warraq, were both fabulous. I myself wasn't bad. Raquel, whose hijab is always so glamorous that I am momentarily tempted to wear one, had challenged me to a glamour test. She did not want to be the only "exotic ethnic" and I hope I came through. I wore about 2 pounds of makeup on my face and sported the longest, flashiest earrings I own. Our dear friend, Ibn Warraq, simply wore a jacket and a tie and represented Old School gravitas very well. He is also my dearest friend and he can comment on footnotes that refer to footnotes that are contained in yet other footnotes in a wide variety of volumes. For those who want to hear us live, here is a link. Afterwards, several interviews were also compiled here.
I recommend this book be put on the reading list of every American school.
--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Author of Infidel and Nomad
This is a bold book, intimate and rich in detail… Chesler is a voice crying out for women. She will never stop
The 2011 Edition of Mothers on Trial
The 2009 Edition of