The Most Meaningful Book Review I've Written (and the longest): Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has another hit on her hands. The last book was Infidel, an amazing book about her journey from a strict Muslim family in Somalia to escaping an arranged marriage, to becoming a successful, self-made human rights activist, primarily speaking out about the Muslim community. Her life is in constant threat of death -because it is believed in the Muslim world that you should kill the Infidels. Allah has said it in the Quran and every good Muslim must follow his word. Scary.

I noted parts of the book that were particularly interesting to me, and this is much longer than most any book review I have ever given, it is worth it. If you really can't stand to read long blog posts (um, I'm guilty of that frequently), at least skip down to the quotes from the book down below.

I could almost find something in every single chapter that stuck out to me. It's just a well-written, informative and insightful true story about the Muslim life from someone who grew up in it, who knows it inside and out, and who was able to step outside that world that she knew since birth and see that some things are wrong. Severely wrong. Ayaan is an atheist now, but she believes that Christians need to stand up to the Muslim community and do more aggressive outreach, as the Muslims are doing themselves. She is an atheist, but she is not against people believing in any given deity, so long as an entire gender is not being stepped upon in the process. It is a great stance to have.

This book really challenged me, as I like to believe that I am very open-minded, but most especially about other cultures and/or religions. I accept that we are all not the same. I accept that some people need a certain belief that there is a higher power in order to feel fulfilled in their own life. I accept that certain cultures do things certain ways and that's their right. But this book was fairly anti-Muslim based on the violence and the gendercide going on....and it actually makes a lot of sense. I'm not so sure I'm open-minded about making women have the value of half a sheep. Or about small girls being basically sold off to unknown men for selfish reasons (or any reason I guess). So perhaps I am not so open-minded about the Muslim faith's a hard hurdle for me to jump.

This is a great read. Please give it a try.
I thought I had written a review about her first book, but I'm not finding it. Trust me when I say that Infidel is an amazing book as well - go read them both! Ayaan Hirsi Ali has basically given her life so that this story gets out. She has an entire culture that would like to see her die. She cannot go anywhere without bodyguards. She has no privacy and must live the rest of her life in fear. Please don't let that be for nothing - read this book.

Mahad is her older brother and has some sort of mental illness. This was his treatment:

I knew the procedure. A group of people read passages from the Quran and spit into a pail of water and sprinkle it on the patient. Or they spit on his bed covers after every few passages. Not large drops but little lines of saliva, with the tongue quickly returning to the mouth after letting a little drop fall, a very particular kind of gesture.
It seems as if this is not working, so think twice before trying this at home.

Ayaan was a translator in Holland for years. For government agencies and social services. She describes having to explain to a man that he had AIDS:
I struggled to find the Somali word for immune system, or even virus, and finally told the man, "In your blood test, invisible living things were found that slowly will destroy the army of defenders in your blood." I went on to describe that the blood is made up of white blood cells - though we don't have the word cells-and red blood cells. "The white blood cells are an army that keep away enemies that come into your body and make you sick. But some things, like the one that was detected in your blood, are too strong for your soldiers without the help of medicine."
This is so intriguing to me (and slightly entertaining) because you never think about these new words we Westerners have created through science and medicine and whatnot, that are not in a language that is as old as the Somali language. How would this new word be introduced into society? They don't know about blood do you spread the word about what the English word blood cells is referring to? Interesting, right? I have never thought about it before -even when I lived in a foreign land and was told by my director (who often translated for us) that there is no word in Korean for something I was saying...I just assumed he meant he didn't know it (which might also have been the case many times).

Ayaan is very open in both her book Infidel and this book that she had her genitals cut at a young age. Her vagina was sewn together. Ugh, think about that for a second. Now send some mental love to your girl bits...cause there is some messed up stuff going on in the world. Vaginas should never be cut. Am I right? Can I get a Hell Yeah for no cutting of the vaginas?? Amen sister.
Roughly 130 million women around the world have had their genitals cut. Even though vaginal excision is not mentioned in the Quran, most of the 130 million women alive worldwide who have undergone this brutal ritual are Muslim women.

Where are the feminists??
There are already Muslim schools in America where girls learn all day long to be subservient and lower their eyes, to veil themselves to symbolize the suppression of their individual will. They are taught to internalize male superiority and walk very softly into the mosque by a back door. In weekend Quran schools girls learn that God requires them to obey, that they are worth less than boys and have fewer rights before God. This too is happening in America.
Because Western feminists manifest an almost neurotic fear of offending a minority group's culture, the situation of Muslim women creates a huge philosophical problem for them.

Child marriage is also a logical outgrowth of the Muslim fixation on female purity: if you marry her off early, as soon as possible after menstruation, she won't have time to damage your reputation and devalue your goods. The reality of this is extremely bitter: imagine a 13-yr old girl transferred to the arms of an old man she has never seen before. 
Child marriage is illegal in Western countries, of course, but other aspects of the Muslim oppression of women can be readily imported into both Europe and the U.S. The fact that honor killings can occur in Texas, New York, and Georgia makes the virtual silence of Western feminists on this subject all the more bizarre and deplorable.
Hello, Feminists? Are you there? Where'd you go?? Please come back. Soon.

A story from the author's upbringing that made me really question how anyone believes anything ever:

Allah and his agents played a big part in my childhood. A man named Boqol Sawm tried to terrify us into being devout. He droned into our ears that we were all headed to hell for sinning. In hell we would be burned in hungry flames, dipped in cooking oil, made whole again and broiled from head to toe. Each time we perished, Allah would remake us, give us back our bodies and skins ever more smooth and sensitive. Then he would give his angels orders to start burning us again. These horrors would go on and on until Allah was satisfied that we had been justly punished.

At the end of the book, Ayaan writes a letter to her unborn daughter. It is very sweet, very smart, and great advice for all females everywhere. Here is a small piece of it:
I shall not bring you up in the Muslim faith, the faith of your forefathers and foremothers, for i believe it is fatally flawed. I will, however, introduce you to different religions, their founders, and some of their followers. I will bring you up to have faith in yourself, in science,  and your own reason and the force of life. And I will never seek to impose my believes or unbelief on you.
Beautiful. We should all take those last two lines and have them on posters in our houses. Maybe cross-stiched on a pillow. Or as part of our holiday cards. We should all care as much as Ayaan Hirsi Ali cares.


  1. Brian Miller said...:

    great review...will add it to the list...

  1. natalee said...:

    okay you've captivated ordering the book....hugs

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Looks like a fascinating read! If only I had time and not mountains of laundry to do...

  1. Denis said...:

    Your favorite author?

  1. Wow. I think I'll suggest it to my book club. I love a challenge to my views! And I was telling my students--especially the girls--about the Taliban back in the 90's. Hello? Feminists? Humanists?

  1. carma said...:

    every time I read about that genital thing I have to cringe. why, in this day and age it still goes on is infuriating.

  1. Brandy said...:

    fantastic review. must add this to my wish list

  1. Another add to my summer list, thanks.

  1. Heather said...:

    Well I have to admit, I'm not a big reader. This book sounds great and I am very interested in reading it. Although I don't think it will be the same without your little comments in it!

    Great review!!


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