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Nineteen-year-old Kate Brady joined the army to bring honor to her family and democracy to the Middle East. Instead, she finds herself in a forgotten corner of the Iraq desert in 2003, guarding a makeshift American prison. There, Kate meets Naema Jassim, an Iraqi medical student whose father and little brother have been detained in the camp.
Kate and Naema promise to help each other, but the war soon strains their intentions. Like any soldier, Kate must face the daily threats of combat duty, but as a woman, she is in equal danger from the predatory men in her unit. Naema suffers bombs, starvation, and the loss of her home and family. As the two women struggle to survive and hold on to the people they love, each comes to have a drastic and unforeseeable effect on the other’s life.
Culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, Sand Queen offers a story of hope, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of women at war.
“[A] thrilling and thoughtful new novel . . . [Kate] is a character readers won’t soon forget.”–Publishers Weekly
“Funny, shocking, painful, and, at times, deeply disturbing, Sand Queen takes readers beyond the news and onto the battlefield.”–Booklist
“This bleak novel explores the horrendous impact of the Iraq war on women, both soldiers and civilians ... [an] unforgettable testament.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Every war eventually yields works of art which transcend politics and history and illuminate our shared humanity. Helen Benedict’s brilliant new novel has done just that with this century’s American war in Iraq. Sand Queen is an important book by one our finest literary artists.”–Robert Olen Butler
“Helen Benedict’s compelling story provides an intimate picture of what it means to be a soldier, what it’s like to live on the battlefield, and what the ethical choices are that our troops have had to make in Iraq. Benedict tells her story from two perspectives–that of a young American woman–a soldier–and a young Iraqi woman–a medical student–both of whose worlds are ravaged by the war. At times funny, at times grimly painful, Sand Queen offers a new chapter in contemporary American history.”–Roxana Robinson, author of Cost and Sweetwater
“Every American who claims to value the lives of our soldiers should read this powerful, harrowing, and revelatory novel.”–Valerie Martin, author of Trespass