In Dreams of Trespass, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surrounded her in the courtyard of her youth - women who, without access to the world outside, recreated it from sheer imagination.
Her harem has nothing to do with Western ideas, in which half-naked women loll about wells all day long, waiting for their master. Fatima's father had exactly one wife. However, she lived most of the day with her sister-in-law, mother-in-law and children in a locked-up world, defined by high walls, barely any privacy and the impossibility of being able to walk around freely outdoors.
The antipole is the harem where Yasmina, the maternal grandmother, lives. She has to share her husband with eight other women, which she very much regrets, as she is tenderly attached to him. But she is not surrounded by high walls, she lives on a farm in the countryside.
A beautifully written account of a girl confronting the mysteries of time and place, gender and sex, Dreams of Trespass illuminates what it was like to be a modern Muslim woman in a place steeped in tradition.