Author: Nujood Ali (with Delphine Minoui)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: Middle East, POC, Women Unbound
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for my Birthday and am going to donate it to my school's library
Summary (from the back of the book): Nujood Ali's childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With arrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband's hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom--an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married under the legal age. Nujood's courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family even inspired other young girls in the Middle East to challenge their marriages.
Review: This is the first book I am reading for my Middle East Reading Challenge. I had heard good things about it around the blogosphere so was looking forward to reading it; I wasn't disappointed.
I remember this news story when it hit the world. Like most people, my gut reaction was shock and anger: a 10 year old getting married? Unlike many others, my second and follow-up responses were to take a step back and question it. I felt like I didn't want to judge without all the information. While cultures and countries around the world have customs that are strange and seem "wrong" to me, I also try to remember that my way of doing things isn't always the "right" way and that I should be open to differences.
Don't get me wrong... I still do not support anyone getting marrying without their consent and I certainly don't support physical and sexual abuse. But there are often extenuating circumstances when events take place. I cannot put myself in the place of Nujood's family: illiterate; many children; no money; unable to feed the family, etc. What would I do? I don't know. However, I do feel that the primary role of a parent is to look out for what is best for my child. My overwhelming feeling from reading this books is that the adults in her life did not looked out for her best interests.
What is even more extraordinary than Nujood getting married at age 10 is the fact that she got out. She was 10 years old, a girl in a culture that does not support it's girls/women very well, and she got herself to a courthouse and confronted men she didn't know, and told a story of abuse and sex that must have been SO awkward and difficult. It goes against everything she was taught. And, she did it without the support of her family. To me, this is the real story: the story of triumph, inspiration, and success.
Obviously, Nujood gets her divorce. Finally there are adults (3 judges and a lawyer) who support her and do what's right by her. They give her the opportunity to be a kid, to go to school, to avoid abuse, and to begin her life again. And, in turn, she can keep an eye out for her younger sister so that she too can go to school and not be married off at an early age.
Books like this one really cover two interesting themes: (1) the actual story that is the center and (2) the culture of the country that they are set in. I learned a lot about Yemen (at least for poor families) in the process of reading this book. I have traveled to Yemen's neighbor, Oman, a number of times and the two countries seem so different. However, I realize that the Omanis I know are extremely educated and well-traveled; I don't know what life is like for the families in the villages we've driven through and where we have only had very brief visits.
What book(s) do you feel like gave you a glimpse into a culture and not just one person's story?