Introductory activities

1. Before reading

Nine Parts of Desire is a highly evocative, nonfiction text recounting the lives of women in Muslim countries. It was extensively researched over a period of six years, presenting much new information on the lives of Islamic women from a western journalist’s point of view. In the period spanning the early 90s whilst living in the Middle East, Brooks covered the social, cultural, religious and political upheavals brought on by war, insurrection and the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam. Given that this is a complex nonfiction text with reference to other cultures and other times, a solid understanding of the background and context of the text is essential, as is a careful and sensitive treatment of its content.

The rich tapestry of an individual’s stories and experiences outlines the similarities and differences in the lives of women from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Eritrea and other countries of the region. It is essential that students bring to their study of the text an understanding of the history and culture of these countries as well develop a knowledge and understanding of relevant Arabic terms and what they mean. The wiseGEEK website will be of some help here.

Brooks is able to show the diversity of fundamentalist Islam, mostly hidden behind a chador, and is ultimately able to conclude that, “I found the brightest hope for positive change camouflaged among the black chadors of devout Iranian women.”

Tuning in

Begin with a Placemat activity to discuss the focus question:

  • What are the key Muslim beliefs and practices?

The Placemat activity is a co-operative learning strategy which allows students to explore content, ideas, issues or concepts. In this strategy students can work both alone and together, ensuring the participation and accountability of all students. Beforehand and during the activity, ensure that students consider the Five Pillars of Islam.

Place students in groups of four and provide each with a sheet of paper which has a placemat diagram.

Ask students to individually think of their opinions or answers to the question and to write their thoughts in one of the outside areas. Students then come together to share their ideas before deciding on a consensus answer which is written in the centre. The placemat is presented back to the entire class.

Groups in the placemat strategy can be larger or smaller than four with the placemat being altered accordingly. For more information on this strategy go to the My Read website.

2. During reading

When completing this task students should consult the text, use an online dictionary and the modified SAW sheet below. Becoming familiar with the terminology is essential for understanding all of the separate stories as they are conveyed throughout the book.

SAW: Student action words

SAW is a spelling strategy that encourages whole brain learning as students interact with their words in symbolic, visual, aural and experiential ways. As students use words multiple times they tend to remember them, reinforcing the use of words in context and encouraging an enthusiasm for word study. It is a highly motivating approach to spelling.

The SAW strategy is set out as follows:


  1. Quote:_______________________________________________________________




Page ­­­­­­­­­reference: ________


2. Word and predicted definition:_______________________________________



3. Actual definition:___________________________________________________­­­­­­



4. Antonym/s:_________________________________________________________



5. Association or symbol:______________________________________________



6. One good sentence:_________________________________________________








  1. Quote the actual sentence or phrase and page number in which the word appears.
  2. Write the word and the predicted definition.
  3. Check the word’s meaning in a dictionary and write its definition.
  4. Write an antonym.
  5. Draw an image or word association that helps you remember the word.
  6. Write one good sentence to show how the word can be used.

Ask students to display their SAW activities in the classroom so that they are available to other students to read the meanings of the Arabic terms.


abaya p. 167
andarun p. 30
aqd p. 56
Ayatollah p. 15 Reflection of God , the most learned Shiite clergy
Buraimi p. 37
chador p. 13
chadris p. 21
darra p. 71 co-wife
Fatwa p. 26  p. 227
Foul, tamiyya and molokiyya p. 157
hadith p. 37
hamams p. 24
haram p. 38
hezbollah p. 16
Hijab p. 20
Husseinya  husseinias p. 13
kaffiyeh p. 70
Maalimah p. 221
Majlis p. 144
makruh p. 38
muezzins p. 225
mullah p. 3
puk p. 104
Salwar kameez p. 21
sati p. 232
shehada p. 93
Sigheh or muta p. 43
sunnah p. 21
sunnat p. 38
Thobes p. 2 long white, robes
Tuareg p. 22

Once words have been allocated one to each student, ask students to take on a second word until all have been allocated.

Personal dictionary

Students should complete this part of the unit with a jigsaw activity, an excellent way to share knowledge amongst the class. Divide students into groups of four, ensuring that each table is covered with paper. Students are then asked to share the meanings of their allocated words from the Terminology list. Ask students to then use the SAW activities to make their own personal dictionaries from the words that are shared.
(ACEEN024)   (ACEEN028)


Personal response on reading the text

Individual writing activities

Mind maps

Direct students to produce a series of mind maps to give a succinct summary of the plot of each chapter. A mind map is a diagram which visually organises information. A mind map is often created around a single concept and drawn in the centre of a page. Major ideas which connect to the central concept are added. These may be words or images which are connected to the central concept.

Mind maps can be drawn freehand but there are a number of useful websites so that the map can be completed digitally. These include:

Each mind map should include:

  • the name of the focus country,
  • the leader of the country,
  • the place of women within the society.

(ACEEN028)   (ACEEN029)


Synthesising task

Research activity

Individually or in groups students are to undertake and present some detailed research on each of the individuals listed below to include: the time and country in which they lived and the influence they each had on the position of women in Islamic society. The research should include facts on their backgrounds, rise to power, style of leadership and legacy for each of Iran or Jordan.

Students are then to write their own personal responses (maximum 500 words) to the question:

  • How does each of the three researched leaders either add to or detract from the advance of women in their countries?

(ACEEN029)   (ACEEN032)   (ACEEN035)   (ACEEN036)   (ACEEN037)   (ACEEN038)   (ACEEN040)

The writer’s craft

Key elements of the text



The dominant theme in Nine Parts of Desire is the personal and socio-cultural impact of religion on Middle Eastern women. As a main idea or message, Brooks uses motifs, ideas or objects that reoccur throughout the text to develop her themes. The book deals with a range of Islamic religious practices and especially focuses on the wearing of the veil. The veil is a dominant motif contributing towards the description of the impact of religion on women.

At Cairo airport, a great crossroads of the Islamic world, it was possible to see almost every interpretation of Islamic dress. Women from Pakistan, on their way to jobs in the Gulf, floated by in their deliciously comfortable salwar kameez, silky tunics drifting low over billowing pants with long shawls of matching fabric tossed loosely over their heads. Saudi women trod carefully behind their husbands, peering from behind gauzy veils and 360 degree black cloaks… Afghani women also wore 360 degree coverings called chadris – colorful crinkly shrouds with an oblong of embroidered latticework over the eyes. Women from Dubai wore stiff, birdlike masks of black and gold that beaked over the nose but left their luminous, treacle-colored eyes exposed. Some Palestinian and Egyptians wore dull-colored, floor-length button-through coats and white head-scarves, others wore bright calf-length skirts with matching scarves held in place by headbands of seed pearls. (pp. 21–22)

Students are to compose a collage of Islamic veils or head-dresses, to include photographs of all types of veils – the Shayla, Hijab, Al-Amira, Khimar, Chador, Niqab and Burka. The Google images website is a useful one for this purpose. Once completed, work is to be displayed in the classroom and a Gallery Walk will be conducted to view the variety of collages. Students should ensure that they include the most modern veils worn by young Indonesian women. In this case the most beautiful silk head-scarves are exquisitely embroidered and held in place on the head by intricate diamond encrusted brooches.


Omar (the caliph) cracked down on women in ways that he must have known flouted Muhammad’s traditions. He made stoning the official punishment for adultery and pressed to extend the seclusion of women beyond the prophet’s wives. He tried to prevent women from praying in the mosque, and when that failed, he ordered separate prayer leaders for men and women. He also prevented women from making the Hajj, a ban that was only lifted in the last year of his life. (p. 89)


When Khadija (a young Kuwaiti Shiite) decided to do postgraduate work in London, her husband readily arranged his business to accommodate her. The two of them never showed any physical affection in the presence of outsiders. But there was electricity in the looks they exchanged and warmth in the way they spoke to each other that made the intensity of their relationship quite obvious. When I asked Khadija why her marriage had worked out so well when so many other relationships looked empty, she smiled. “My husband is a good Muslim,” she said. “He knows what the Koran actually says about relationships between men and women, and that is what he lives by. It’s as simple as that.” (p. 61)


…she strode over and hefted it herself, waving away the dismayed servant who rushed to help her. She had always been athletic: a cheerleader and member of the hockey team in the first coed class at Princeton in 1969… Now, she rode, played tennis and did aerobics two or three times a week. (p.125)


The Islamic dress – hijab – that Sahar opted to wear in Egypt’s tormenting heat signified her acceptance of a legal code that valued her testimony at half the worth of a man’s, an inheritance system that allotted her half the legacy of her brother, a future domestic life in which her husband could beat her if she disobeyed him…divorce her at whim and get absolute custody of her children. (p. 8)

Students are to research another quotation similar to the examples above for each of these themes and which for them encompasses Brooks’ treatment of that issue. Quotes are to be presented to the class, explaining Brooks’ treatment of each sub-theme.
(ACEEN021)   (ACEEN028)   (ACEEN029)   (ACEEN032)


Being a nonfiction text, characterisation in Nine Parts of Desire is centred on the narrator as she reveals the lives and actions of the people she met and befriended during the research for her book. There is a broad range of characters but most are minor, who have not been developed into portrayals of fully-rounded individuals. They tend to be typified as exemplars or representatives, are seen predominantly through Brooks’ eyes and are presented in the third person narrative. Many are characters about whom we know a lot, but who definitely have large gaps in their character portrayal. They rarely speak for themselves, but are presented to us by the author.

Read the extract below which describes Padideh, the Iranian runner.

Padideh, the Iranian runner, sat by herself, nervously fingering worry beads as she waited for her shot at a medal in the 400 metres final. The night before, I commiserated with the Pakistani runner who had blown her heat and missed a chance at the final of her best event. It was a disaster for her, but by the next day she was already looking forward to another chance at the Asian Games, or the Pan-Pacifics, or one of the half dozen international contests she would attend the following year or two.

For Padideh, everything rested on this one brief race. It would be four years before she had another chance at international competition. As she crouched at the starting line, her leggy, foallike figure looked frail alongside the muscular athletes from Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzistan and Azerbaijan. At the crack of the starter’s pistol, she sped away, her long, loping stride keeping pace with that of her meatier competitors.

But it was a brief illusion of parity. A third of the way through the race, she had already fallen behind, and the strain of her initial effort showed on her face. For Paddideh, training had to fit in between university classes, in the brief women’s hours allowed at her nearby stadium. She had never worked out with weights or been trained by a professional coach. She fell across the finish line more than three seconds behind the winner and about two seconds shy of the third place runner. Collapsing on the ground, she grasped at her chest and gulped for air between sobs of pain and disappointment. (Chapter 11, p. 210)

Use a think-pair-share approach to discuss the following questions:

  • What disadvantages does Padideh experience in comparison with other competitors?
  • What personal qualities of resilience and determination does she demonstrate?
  • What do you speculate are the motivations behind Padideh’s persistence?
  • Faced with similar handicaps, how do you think you would cope in similar circumstances?

(ACEEN024)   (ACEEN029)   (ACEEN031)


Positioning is where the composer of a text encourages the responder to adopt a particular point of view and interpret the text in a particular way; to either accept or reject the writer’s viewpoint. The responder can be positioned through the language that is used, the way incidents and events are depicted or the argument presented. Many techniques are used to position the responder and each needs to be explicitly taught, using modelling techniques from the text. These include:

  • Dialogue
  • Juxtaposition
  • Narrative structure
  • Point of view
  • The use of emotive language
  • Voice
  • Setting

1. Dialogue

Nonfiction texts do not make use of dialogue often. It is difficult to write verbatim and the dialogue often tends to be representative of the people in the text. Nine Parts of Desire makes very little use of real dialogue, and when it is used it is short and the language quite emotive, for example, when the Queen of Kuwait was reported as having made extravagant purchases while shopping:

She bought a piece of jewellery that cost three quarters of a million dollars. A Kuwait newspaper got hold of the check and printed it under a headline, “While the king begs, the queen spends.”

Students are to select two examples of dialogue from the text, one which is emotive and one which is representative of the people referred to in the story. A short explanation of each type of dialogue is to be produced.

2. Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is where things are seen or placed closely together to suggest a relationship. Juxtaposition is often used to create a contrasting effect. Chapters on the Prophet Muhammed’s management of his many wives and on modern Islamic women juxtapose the idealised Islam of the Koran and actual Islamic practice.

3. Narrative structure

Narrative structure in a nonfiction text often makes use of detail to create character and theme. The text aims to make the events vivid so as to bring the story to life. The purpose is to entertain the reader whilst becoming informed about the position of Islamic women in many countries. Situations were often narratively contrasted; for example, the situation in Saudi Arabia as opposed to that in Iran.

As the nonfiction text aims to reveal the emotional or moral truth in events, not every detail can be verified by the author. Students are to skim read the beginning of each chapter, looking closely at each to identify if there is a tight sequence of events. Comment should be made on whether there is a sequence and how this would help to provide cohesion to the series of events presented.

4. Point of view

The story is told in the first person narrative with a typical journalistic tone. Students should reread the first three pages of the text and use a transformational approach to write a brief newspaper article. They are to look carefully at the sensational aspects of the account for their articles, for instance the western woman being denied a room for the night and her transfer to the gaol because her husband was not accompanying her on the visit.

Particular note should be made of the change in point of view and the effect that this has on our understanding of the story and its characters. The nature of nonfiction texts makes the perspective almost a hybrid one with differing narrative modes – first person and third person – almost combining as Brooks reveals how characters view the world.
(ACEEN032)   (ACEEN033)

5. Voice

Brooks’ voice in Nine Parts of Desire mirrors the journalist’s. However, journalists often apply their personal perspectives and intentions to events and situations. Many authors speak of the voice being in two parts: the persona of the writer and the deliberately chosen point of view in relation to the story. The author’s voice can be engaging, persuasive and motivational for the responder. As well as point of view, vocabulary choice, length of sentences, use of figurative language and tone all contribute to enhancing the voice of an author’s writing style.

6. Setting

The descriptions of the various settings in Nine Parts of Desire are very evocative, especially those of the regions within the desert. Brooks reveals her great love of the desert. Descriptions of other settings are just as vivid and chosen perfectly to reveal the style and grace of the locations.

Saudi Arabia is described as: having high orange sand dunes (that) cradled his fragile little farm. When I opened the door of the air-conditioned jeep, a blast of hot air hit me like a gust from a crematorium. My eyelids felt desiccated, like dried peas. T.E. Lawrence described the heat of these Arabian sands. “The sun came up like a drawn sword and struck us speechless. (p.144)

Students should comment on whether they feel this description reveals the style and grace of the location. They should then choose at least three other descriptions of settings and use the KWL chart below to activate background knowledge about the particular settings or to demonstrate what they have been able to find out from an extract or source.

KWL chart

What I know

What I wonder

What I have learned







(ACEEN024)   (ACEEN028)   (ACEEN029)   (ACEEN037)   (ACEEN039)


Synthesising activity

Positioning the responder

Identify the positioning and techniques used by the author to position the responder for the following extracts. Record your response, giving quotations to support these ideas. An example of a possible answer to number one has been added.

Positioning responders chart

Do you accept or reject the author’s viewpoint Why?

Which techniques are used?

Quotations to support my ideas
1. Accept the author’s viewpoint




The author states that Muhammad extols women’s sexuality and so the clitoridectomy cannot be compared to a man growing a beard as both being sunnat. “The majority of Muslims say that no such sunnat (genital mutilation) exists.”








Extract 1

From the study of hadith, various schools of Islamic thought have emerged, and within those schools, particular teachers have developed wide followings. Most agree on what is haram or forbidden, such as eating pork or drinking alcohol and also on what is wajib, or obligatory such as the content and timing of the five daily prayers. A Muslim sins by either doing a forbidden act or by neglecting an obligatory one. In between are makruh, or discouraged and unbecoming acts; and sunnat acts, which are desirable but not obligatory. (p.38)

To most Muslim men, growing a beard is sunnat – a desirable act that expresses humility and emulates the prophet. A man will be rewarded for doing it; he won’t be punished for neglecting to do it. In the Muslim communities that practice female genital mutilation, removing the clitoris is on par with growing a beard – a sunnat act. Some Muslims believe Muhammad’s sunnah – tradition or “trodden path” – encouraged the removal of one third of a female child’s clitoris. The majority of Muslims say no such sunnah exists. The evidence supports the latter view, for there is an immense body of hadith in which Muhammad and his closest disciples extol women’s sexuality and their right to sexual pleasure. (p. 38)

Extract 2

The word “hijab” literally means “curtain” and it is used in the Koran as an instruction to believers of Muhammad’s day on how they should deal with the prophet’s wives. “If you ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts.” The revelation of hijab came to Muhammad on one of his wedding nights, just as he was about to bed Zeinab, the most controversial of his brides.

Islamic scholars generally agree that the marriage to Zeinab caused the most serious of several scandals surrounding the prophet’s ever growing number of wives. Visiting the house of his adopted son, Muhammad had glimpsed the young man’s wife only partially dressed. The woman was beautiful, and Muhammad quickly turned away, muttering a prayer against temptation. Believing Muhammad desired his wife, the young man divorced her. Muhammad’s subsequent marriage to Zeinab provoked uproar in the community, since it violated the rules of incest already set down in the Koran. The uproar only subsided when Muhammad made a new revelation proclaiming all adoptions invalid, and therefore exempting himself from the rule that barred a father from marrying the wife of his son.

The revelation of hijab put the prophet’s wives, including Zeinab, into seclusion where they would be safer from scandal. The Koran’s instructions for women outside the prophet’s household weren’t as severe: “Tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms.” (pp. 20–21)

Extract 3

But while the opening of women’s universities widened access to higher learning for women, it also made the educational experience much shallower. By 1962, many progressive Saudi families had sent their daughters abroad for education. They had returned to the kingdom not only with a degree, but with the experience of the outside world, whether in the West or in the more progressive Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon or Syria, where they’d breathed the air of desegregation and even caught a breath of secular culture. Now a whole generation of Saudi women have completed their education entirely within the country. While thousands of Saudi men benefit from a higher education abroad at government expense, women haven’t been granted such scholarships since 1980. The government’s position is that women’s educational opportunities have improved within the kingdom to a point where a woman’s needs can be all met within its borders. The definition of her educational needs, as set out in a Ministry of Higher Education policy paper, is “to bring her up in a sound Islamic way so she can fulfil her role in life as a successful housewife, ideal wife and good mother, and to prepare her for other activities that suit her nature such as teaching, nursing, and medicine.” (p. 149)


Using the three paragraphs above about positioning, and by adding an introduction and conclusion, students are to discuss in short essay format the topic of how the author’s positioning techniques worked on them and whether or not their viewpoints were changed. Quotations are to be used to support their arguments.
(ACEEN022)   (ACEEN033)   (ACEEN039)   (ACEEN040)

Comparison with other texts

Nine Parts of Desire: the play

The play, Nine Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo, is based on Brooks’ book of the same name. The drama deals with the plight of Iraqi women, especially during times of war. Raffo visited Iraq in 1993 and interviewed several women. The interviews formed the basis of the play which relates the stories of nine Iraqi women and how they survived the war. The play draws on the stories of:

  • Mullaya: a traditional hired woman who leads the call and response for mourning women at a funeral.
  • Layal: an artist in Iraq who is a resilient yet fragile woman. She is a daredevil with a killer smile.
  • Amal: a 38-year-old woman who has been divorced a couple of times; she is always asking questions and wants answers to everything.
  • Huda: an Iraqi woman who is exiled in London. She drinks whisky and has been smoking for fifty years. She has a good sense of humour.
  • The Doctor: an Iraqi doctor who always keeps her hands clean.
  • The Girl: an Iraqi girl who likes listening to “NSYNC” and wants to go to school but is not allowed by her mother. She speaks English better than the others.
  • Umm Ghada: a woman who has lost all her children in a bombing raid. She has great tranquillity and pride; she is peaceful and composed.
  • The American: an Iraqi/American exile, who is in New York glued to her television.
  • Nanna: an elderly woman, who sells anything she can on the street corner to survive and help her family.

The characters are composites of the women Raffo interviewed and form the basis of the story. Each character scene begins as a dramatic monologue (having initially been acted by Heather Raffo alone) and then develops almost into a dialogue as each of the characters returns.

Listen to the interview with Heather Raffo: Al Jazeera “Everywoman”. See also the play’s review in the New York Times and write a background briefing for other students on the play. The briefing should include: details about the playwright, the origin of the work, its dramatic and literary features, characters and actors, themes, costume and music.
(ACEEN024)   (ACEEN032)   (ACEEN036)   (ACEEN037)   (ACEEN039)


Ways of reading the text

Binary oppositions

Binary oppositions are pairs of related terms or concepts which are opposite in meaning. They are words or ideas that a group of people consider to be directly opposed to each other, for example masculine/feminine, black/white, rational/emotional. It is usual in a text for one of each pair to be privileged and the other devalued.

In literature binary opposites can allow a deep understanding of what is happening in the text. In To Kill a Mockingbird Lee disrupts the notion that black is bad and white is good, when Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of raping a white woman. The woman, Mayella, is immediately believed by the local people but at the end it is revealed that she lied. The binary system helps the responder to explore the concepts of racism and stereotyping. In the Harry Potter series there are two communities, the magical and the non-magical, and outside these categories are the half-bloods and muggle-born. The evil Voldemort wants to eliminate the latter and create a world in which the wizards are privileged and the half-bloods and muggle-born disfavoured.

Students are encouraged to re-look at Nine Parts of Desire in terms of binary opposites, in relation to characters, nationalities and concepts and how these are presented to readers.


Students are to reread Chapter seven, “A Queen” in Nine Parts of Desire and discuss in groups the representation of Queen Noor and King Hussein as binary opposites in respect to:

  • dress,
  • occupations,
  • their home,
  • marriage,
  • the perceptions of the people of Jordan,
  • the perceptions of the people of America,
  • comments by King Hussein,
  • Noor’s interests,
  • Noor’s charitable work.

Using a process of finding examples and quotations from the whole text: its ideas and issues, concepts and conclusions, students are now asked to describe in written form the binary opposites that are present or suggested in the work as a whole. Students should examine how they might be directly or indirectly privileged in terms of the use of power, individualism, liberation, nationality, cultural practices and religion itself. Extreme sensitivity and care should be exercised in respect to racial, cultural or religious stereotyping, especially in today’s social and political climate.
(ACEEN021)   (ACEEN022)   (ACEEN029)   (ACEEN033)   (ACEEN035)   (ACEEN036)

Dominant, alternative and resistant readings

As they are essentially cultural artefacts, all texts can mean different things to different groups of people. Texts can be read in different ways and produce particular interpretations through different impressions of emphasis, language, tone, voice, positioning and so on. Three types of readings are of particular note for Nine Parts of Desire:

  1. The dominant or preferred reading representing the most widely accepted interpretation of the text, and usually the one intended by the author.
  2. The alternative reading that differs from the accepted interpretation in detail and particular, but essentially does not challenge the dominant reading.
  3. The resistant reading is an alternative which contradicts or challenges the dominant reading.

Reviews written on Nine Parts of Desire demonstrate how responders have outlined their readings of the text. An example of one of the commonly accepted interpretations or dominant readings which probably closely reflects the author’s intent, can be found in the blog review by Bookie Me. This contemporary style online review speaks in terms of a purely personal response, “What I loved is that it specifically talks about women issues and Brooks has done her research first hand extensively, spending a decade talking and befriending women in Middle Eastern countries…” The opinion piece is strongly supportive of Brooks’ insights and observations and, in many instances also of Islam in some countries. For example, it makes reference to the lack of rights of the Bennett sisters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as compared to those granted under the laws of the Koran. However, the blogger ultimately conforms with Brooks’ conclusion that Islam “has to be called to account for the kind of life it offers the people in the lands where it predominates.”

The Griffith Review‘s On Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks by Randa Abdel-Fattah, however, has a strongly resistant reading as it analyses Brooks’ attempt to understand Muslim Women. “The sheer presumptuousness” of Brooks’ imagining that she can understand an extraordinarily large and highly diverse group of women through living amongst them is considered ludicrous. The reviewer substitutes the Muslim women of Brooks’ text for those in Australia, asking whether Brooks could understand and describe in “homogenous terms” the women of Australia as she did those from the Middle East. “The idea is immediately jarring, ridiculous in its arrogant simplicity and begs the question on what grounds do people invoke the right to study, access and gaze upon others?”

The very nature of Nine Parts of Desire invites controversy, with many alternative readings reflected in the reviews and critiques written about it.


Rich assessment task (Receptive mode)

Students should be directed to the Reading Australia essays published on its site: one by Christopher Kremmer and the other by Randa Abdel-Fattah, (already linked above from Griffith Review). In Christopher Kremmer’s words:

Every reader will have their own response to Nine Parts of Desire. For me it’s a case of mixed feelings. I respect the author’s sincerity of purpose, her great energy and determination, tremendous research, good writing, sturdy values and plain ‘chutzpah’. But in literary terms, this book is a struggle between a journalist, a creative writer and a moralist.

Kremmer’s essay reflects all three types of reading of this text: from the dominant to the resistant. For this Rich assessment task, students should read both essays noting the writers’ conclusions and then research a range of other critiques and reviews. (Additional teaching resources, reviews, interviews and critical commentaries are listed under the ‘More resources’ link at the bottom of each teaching resource page on the Reading Australia site.) Students are to find two contrasting perspectives on Nine Parts of Desire and describe the readings used and the style and tone of the critics’ opinions. Decide which reading(s) of the text you support and why, and then present your findings as a written report, backed up with reference to and evidence from the text itself.
(ACEEN021)   (ACEEN024)   (ACEEN025)   (ACEEN028)   (ACEEN035)   (ACEEN038)   (ACEEN039)   (ACEEN040)

Synthesising core ideas

Academic controversy 

The Academic controversy process allows students to consider their positions in relation to a controversial statement, to deliberate on their own positions and evidence and to consider the views of those on the other side of the debate.

To draw together all the threads of Brooks’ Nine parts of Desire, and to fully comprehend all the issues it raises, students are to conduct an Academic controversy around the statement:

“All women should have the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities as men, irrespective of their nationality or religion.”

The stages in the process are:

  • Introduction. The teacher reviews with the class the meaning of deliberation, the reasons for deliberation and the rules of deliberation.
  • Careful reading of the text. As already covered in other parts of this unit, students need to have a common understanding of the text. If students do not understand the reading, the deliberation will not be successful. As a whole class or in their small groups, students agree on at least three interesting facts and/or ideas from what they have found from reading Nine Parts of Desire.
  • Clarification. After checking the understanding of terms and content, the teacher ensures that the students understand the deliberation statement.
  • Presentation of positions. Students work in small groups of four divided into pairs (A and B). Each pair is assigned a position. The task of the A individuals is to find at least two compelling reasons to say YES to the deliberation proposal. The task of the Bs is to find at least two compelling reasons to say NO to the deliberation proposal. The As instruct the Bs in two reasons to say YES to the deliberation statement and then the Bs instruct the As in at least two reasons to say NO to the deliberation statement.
  • Reversal of positions. The pairs reverse positions. The B pair now takes on the task of saying YES to the deliberation statement; the A pair adopts the role of saying NO to the deliberation statement. The As and Bs should select the best reason they heard from the other pair and add at least one additional compelling reason from the reading to support their new position.
  • Free discussion. Students drop their assigned roles and deliberate the proposal in their small groups. Each student reaches a personal decision based on evidence and logic.
  • Whole class debrief. The teacher leads the class in a discussion to gain a deeper understanding of the proposal, the process and the deliberation. What were the best reasons for each side? What was the area of agreement? Do you still have some questions? Where can you find more information? What is your position now? Did your position change during the controversy? Is there an alternative way of addressing the issue more effectively? How can your class address the issue in another way?
  • Student reflection. Students write a reflection on the Academic controversy activity, highlighting the ways their thinking developed or changed during the exercise.

(ACEEN021)   (ACEEN024)   (ACEEN025)   (ACEEN028)   (ACEEN035)   (ACEEN038)   (ACEEN039)


Rich assessment task (Productive mode)

There is a range of free software packages available including ‘Photo Story’ and others that allow users to create a visual story or multimodal presentation from their digital photos and video clips. The story involves not only visual material but also sound tracks as either songs or voice overs and so is multimodal.

A digital story typically includes around 250 words, 10–15 images, is two to three minutes long and includes attribution of the images and audio tracks.

Making a digital story includes:

  1. Brainstorming the story ideas, followed by writing the script.
  2. Developing a storyboard and editing the script.
  3. Creating digital folders to organise files.
  4. Making decisions about tools – equipment and software.
  5. Recording the voice over (this may be the script).
  6. Producing the images – taking, finding and preparing.
  7. Researching the copyright attributions needed and the credits.
  8. Producing the story using the video editing program.
  9. Exporting  the video and archiving the project.
  10. Sharing the finished story, for example on YouTube or at a school screening with guests invited.

Students are to prepare their own multimodal displays outlining their own responses to Nine Parts of Desire. They are to include the major themes and how they felt they were positioned in relation to them. They need to include as many ideas about culture, traditions, architecture, music etc. as possible.

Students should give their multimodal digital stories an Australian perspective. For instance they might like to add some information on the Burkini which has allowed women and young girls in Australia the freedom to enjoy leisure at the beach as well as taking on more serious sports such as lifesaving. Similarly, the re-settling of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani women refugees amongst other Islamic groups in Australia, could well be a feature. Once again, sensitivity and care are essential when dealing with these sometimes socially contentious and potentially divisive issues.

The Refugee Council of Australia, the Women’s Refugee Commission, The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and other similar organisations are useful resources for this task.
(ACEEN026)   (ACEEN029)   (ACEEN032)   (ACEEN033)   (ACEEN035)   (ACEEN036)   (ACEEN040)