By Rob L. Wagner
5 November 2013
Rajaa Al-Sanea, the Saudi author of “Girls of Riyadh,” or “Banat Al-Riyadh,” which sparked controversy in 2005 for its frank depiction of Saudi women’s lives, has been honored for her research in stem cell science in the US.
Al-Sanea, 31, is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The university honored her last week for significant achievements. She received the award for distinctive research in stem cells and her work in neurology. The university also recognized her literary efforts, singling out “Girls of Riyadh,” which had sold 3 million copies and was translated into 40 languages.
Al-Sanea could not be reached for comment late Monday.
The honor follows Al-Sanea’s rocky start as a novelist. In 2005, two men named the Ministry of Information and Al-Sanea in a lawsuit alleging that the ministry gave permission to Al-Sanea to publish a book that “tarnished” the image of Saudi women. Literary critics, however, considered the novel as the Saudi version of the American television show “Sex in the City.”
The Saudi Court of Grievances rejected the lawsuit in October 2006.
The novel was published in Lebanon in 2005. The US-based Penguin Group published an English version in 2007. It is sold in Saudi Arabia and has also earned positive reviews in the United States.
Al-Sanea earned her bachelor’s degree in dentistry in 2005 at King Saud University. She performed her residency at the National Guard, King Khalid University and King Faisal Specialist hospitals.