Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Recommendation: Infidel

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 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


  1. Thanks for the review Ruth,

    This is one of the books on my shelf, that I just have not gotten to.

    I am have been really bad at getting to reading some of the books I have had for a long time,

    During the summer my stress formed in strange, strange ways. The one that surprised me the most was my ability to read and stick with a book.

    I am a huge reader, but found the only reads I could managed where light mystery novels?????

    I am hoping my brain does return soon.

    I have a huge pile of great reads waiting for me.

    I also will need to get in all the reading I can before I travel and my babe is home as I am pretty sure again I will have a mush brain at least for many , many months as I adjust to a world with little sleep.

    I am also a big sleeper at least for now. These are the kind of things I remind myself to make the most of these days in waiting.

    Look forward to hearing about your next book.

  2. What a wonderful book. I loved it. Offered a perspective I hadn't stumbled across before.

  3. Mark read this book years ago and then it got passed around his family and I never got the chance to read it though from his description, I wanted to so I think one of these days, I should find out who has our book and delve in!