The author is both an American and Israeli citizen who grew up in a Palestinian village in Israel. She speaks fluent Arabic, Hebrew, and English and did her advanced schooling in the U.S. This special background makes her uniquely qualified to explore such a topic. Because she was raised in a Palestinian village, people from that area were willing to talk to her freely about their private lives. Because she is American-educated and has lived in the United States (and is married to a Jewish American), she knows how to describe Arab culture to Western readers. She knows what we will be interested in, and knows what needs explaining. Kanaaneh devotes a decent amount of time to Israeli government policies regarding reproduction and Israeli political rhetoric on these issues. But the heart of her book is her fieldwork -- hundreds of hours of interviews with Palestinians about having children and having sex, and how the people themselves take stock of such things.
The book's main contention is that in Palestinian communities in Israel, reproductive decisions are used as a way of measuring modernity. For example, for many Palestinians, a family's decision to have few children is seen as an indication of how advanced they are. For others, having many children is seen as an indication of how dedicated they are to their national cause. Either way, reproductive decisions are interpreted in a highly politicized manner (by the people involved in them, not by Kanaaneh). The same is true for birth control methods and sex education programs.
The book is chock full of surprising details. Kanaaneh presents a picture of a vibrant, changing society that is not quite so "backward" as some of us like to believe. One detail that surprised me particularly was that in Palestinian sex education classes, masturbation is taught as a safe alternative to sex. When a U.S. Surgeon General suggested such a thing during the Clinton administration, the American political establishment went into a delirium (both Democrats and Republicans) and she was quickly stripped of her position! Another thing that is evident is that sensual pleasures -- for both women and men -- have always been an important part of Arab culture, and in some ways the Palestinians are more open about these things than we have been.
As a way of "getting into" another culture, this book can't be beat. And given the rapidly changing nature of Palestinian society (and its sadly uncertain future), one feels as though one is reading a historical document in the making. This is a real find.