""And vulnerability is what this book is about. And I guess this is why it has been translated into 30 languages: vulnerability is our universal bond. The universal bond, which will bring us all, hopefully, to engineer a more secure globalized planet than the one we live on now""
""However, I have to confess that I did introduce one major change in my childhood reality to create a more enchanting fiction in this book: my mother is very nice in "Dreams of Trespass"! I decided to delete her ferocious dimension. In real life, my mother insulted me often and spent her time criticizing me. Exactly like your mother did in Shanghai or wherever you happen to be born. And I think that my decision to tamper with reality and forget about violence to focus solely on the nurturing dimension of the mother is the source of all enchantments: it highlights our vulnerable side. ""
Introduction to the Chinese Edition of Dreams of Trespass
© Fatema Mernissi, 2007
About Dreams of Trespass J.Berman says "In her autobiography, Fatima Mernissi retells events from her childhood as part of a Moroccan family harem. The novel exposes the multiplicity of experiences faced by women living and harems. Mernissi talks about the confusion she experiences as a young girl in a harem against the backdrop of Moroccan nationalism, Westernization, and the nascent women's rights movements."
Judy Berman, Resident Scholar
Dreams of Trespass: Defining the Frontier
In Fatima Mernissi’s widely acclaimed book Dreams of Trespass, the storyline weaves around the tale of a young girls’
life in a traditional Moroccan harem that is as much enchanting as it is disparaging. As we follow the young girl from
day to day and experience all the little trivialities of her life, we notice that she is quite a precocious little child. She is
constantly questioning, in fact, her mother and aunts constantly tell her that she should stop asking questions all the
time. At first glance, it seems as if her questions are of little or no importance and that they are merely things any
young child would ask as they are stepping out into the real world. But upon closer examination, we can see that it is
really the life in the harem that she is questioning. The truth is that the frontier is one of the main entities that shape her
life and being:
No one answered her questions. In a harem, you don’t necessarily ask questions to get answers. You ask questions
just to understand what is happening to you (Mernissi,22 ).She goes on further to give her father's idea of how hudud
is significant: "Harmony exists when each group respects the prescribed limits of the other.
It is because she sees how the frontier seems to be changing everything about her and her surroundings that Mernissi
decides that she must figure out exactly how it works, before everything she knows slips under her feet. We will also
see how the young Mernissi has an almost paradoxical relationship with the different frontiers. For her, it is both a
source of happiness and a source of pain; it is mysterious to her but at the same time, she can feel how it smothers
her and the other women. At the beginning, it is very obvious that she feels very overwhelmed by the frontier:
My childhood was happy because the frontiers were crystal
clear. The first frontier was the threshold separating our fam-
ily's salon from the main courtyard p3
But since then, looking for the frontier has become my life’s occupation. Anxiety eats at me whenever I cannot situate
the geometric line organizing my powerlessness (Mernissi, 3).
Eventually, she will discover the hard way, that the frontier is not so cut and dry and that there is an equilibrium that has
lasted for generations, trying to define the frontier will make her journey of self-discovery one of tumultuous means.
The most obvious frontier for Mernissi is that of the harem, this is the same for most of the women in the novel too:
Our house gate was a definite hudud, or frontier, because you needed permission to step in or out. Every move had to
be justified and even getting to the gate was a procedure (Mernissi, 21).
She slowly realizes that while she is off having fun with her cousins and Samir, the women of the harem are slowly
choking in the stale air. Mernissi’s mother is probably one of the most powerful women in the novel, who is constantly
standing up to her father. One example of a way in which the harem is a restrictive frontier and thorn in Mernissi’s
mother’s side is the fact that all these families have to live together, all struggling to gain their own individuality while
constantly being suffocated by one another:
Mother dreamed of living alone with Father and us kids. “Whoever heard of