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A Novel

  • reading group guide
A seductive and intriguing journey from the humble Persian Jewish quarter to the fascinating world of shahs, soothsayers, eunuchs, and sultanas, Harem follows three generations of strong-willed and cunning women: Rebekah -- a poor girl married to the abusive blacksmith, Jacob the fatherless -- who emerges from her disastrous match with a mysterious brand between her breasts; Gold Dust, Rebekah's treasured daughter, who enters the opulent and perilous world of the harem and captivates the shah with her singing bones; and Gold Dust's daughter, the revered and feared albino princess Raven, who will one day rule the empire.
Rich in visual imagery, Harem vividly depicts the exotic bazaars and dangerous alleys of the city and palace chambers brimming with conspiracy and betrayal -- as well as love and redemption. A skillfully crafted, intricately textured novel, Harem represents the beginning of a remarkable literary career.
Choose a format:
  • Touchstone | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743230216 | 
  • August 2002
List Price $23.99
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Rebekah of the violet eyes heard a voice that would haunt her the rest of her life.

"I know she's only ten. I'll be patient."

She hugged her doll and tossed on her pallet. The heat, the flies, and the soothing words of the strange man in the next room interrupted her sleep. Visitors were rare in her home. Her widowed mother left at dawn to wash other people's laundry. In the evenings, Rebekah learned from her mother to bake pistachio cookies and crispy rice, to differentiate between aromatic herbs, and to flatter the man who would one day take care of her.

Rebekah pressed her ear to the makeshift... see more

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Points
  1. Set in the Jewish Quarter of Ancient Persia, Harem follows the lives of three generations of courageous and cunning women -- Rebekah; her daughter, Gold Dust; and her granddaughter, Raven -- who are determined to realize their dreams despite the limitations of their forbidding society. How do those limitations change over the course of the novel? How do their dreams differ? How successful is each woman in achieving her dreams?
  2. At the opening of the novel, Rebekah of the violet eyes heard a voice that would haunt her the rest of her life. As she hugs her doll, tossing on her pallet suspended between wakefulness and sleep, ten-year-old Rebekah is captivated by the stranger with a voice like music, who she is convinced will be chosen as her future husband. In a sense it can be said that Rebekah falls in love at first sound. What does the man's voice represent for her? Why do you think Rebekah's dying mother believed she was choosing a better future for her daughter by choosing Jacob the Fatherless? Do you think the stranger continues to inhabit Rebekah's fantasies more because of the brutality of her marriage, or because Rebekah and Rouh'Allah the Spirit of God are fated to be together?
  3. Alarmed by the growing madness she can see in her husband's eyes, Rebekah yearns to escape. Yet when Jacob slyly tells her she can
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About the Author

Dora Levy Mossanen
Photo Credit:

Dora Levy Mossanen

Dora Levy Mossanen was born in Israel and moved to Iran when she was nine. At the onset of the Islamic revolution, she and her family fled to the United States. The recipient of the San Diego State University Editor's Choice award and the author of Harem, a widely acclaimed novel translated into numerous languages, Dora Levy Mossanen lives in Beverly Hills, California. She can be reached at




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