I've been wanting to read Ayaan Hirhsi Ali's memoir, Infidel, for some time. Ali essentially tells the story of her life. She was born in Somalia, and raised in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The first part of her story details the hardships of growing up a girl in a fundamentalist Muslim family: female genital mutilation (a procedure which you know is coming but which she thankfully doesn't spent more than a couple of pages talking about...still I'm not going to forget that quickly); being beaten regularly for whatever infraction she has committed; some of the happy moments childhood afforded her; etc etc etc. After being forced to marry someone that she doesn't want to, the well-known parts of Ali's story involve her escape to Holland as a refugee and the life that she slowly builds for herself as she comes to question everything she's ever been taught to believe in. For expression of her radical beliefs, she becomes a target for Islamic extremists...it is having heard about her being forced to live in hiding (something like Salman Rushdie) that drew my attention to this book last year.
Despite the chronological sequencing of events which ensures that you never forget that this is an autobiography, Ali writes with a gripping style and, often, a surprisingly compassionate perspective on her heritage. I learned much about what it must be like to grow up as a female Muslim, and even a lot about what it must have been like to live in Holland in the 1990s. Her capacity to adapt to and thrive in her various circumstances astounded me, as did her willingness (her need) to examine both her beliefs and herself in her struggle to live her life authentically. This is a book I would recommend reading.
Next up: Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross