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My Year Inside Radical Islam: A Memoir

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  363 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
My Year Inside Radical Islam is a memoir of first a spiritual and then a political seduction. Raised in liberal Ashland, Oregon, by parents who were Jewish by birth but dismissive of strict dogma, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross converted to Islam in college-a process that began with a desire to connect with both a religious community and a spiritual practice, and eventually led h ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published January 31st 2008 by Tarcher (first published 2007)
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Jun 06, 2007 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting to learn how radicalism can evolve
Born into a spiritually ambiguous family (his parents are nonpracticing Jews who follow the "Infinite Way"), Gartenstein-Ross grew up in the 1980s, in Ashland, Ore., a bucolic, posthippie paradise with a live-and-let-live ethic. Spiritually adrift through his teens, he discovers Islam through a classmate at Wake Forest University. Gartenstein-Ross—young and searching, like so many Americans of his socioeconomic class—quickly falls under the spell of fiercely committed Muslims. He begins working ...more
Jun 20, 2007 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
After watching a film on radical Islam at my temple I went out that weekend and found this book. I had been frustrated with the film because of what I felt was an agenda to scare the viewer about Islam in general, and radical Islam in particular (in defense of my temple and showing the film, it was meant to bring about discussion). So, I picked this up over the weekend, read it, and passed it on to my rabbi. While not nearly an exhaustive or wide-ranging view of radical Islam, it does give the r ...more
Sep 01, 2007 Min rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was, for me, a lot like watching a cheesy, low-budget sci-fi film: I spent a lot of time saying, "No! Don't do that!" and "What are you thinking?"
Still, it was a faster read than I expected and I think the author did a pretty good job of showing how he ended up on the radical side of Islam. The ending seemed a little bit anti-climactic, but not horribly so.
For a book outside of my usual preferred genres, I rather enjoyed it.
I first heard about this story while watching the CNN series "God's Warriors." Although it seemed interesting on its own, what really made me want to read the book was that it takes place in a town about 10 miles away from where I grew up. A center for radical Islam exists in southern Oregon? Huh?
Although the author's transformation is somewhat startling and the book is engaging, I wondered how often his account was colored by the desire to appear above the influence of his fundamentalist Muslim
This book shows one college-aged person's struggle to find meaning in life through religious searching, political activism, and personal mentors. His questing takes him in and out of radical Muslim beliefs in the years right before 9/11. He writes this book as an act of confession of sorts -- as a way to explain to people how he came to such a life and what he did (and did not) know about his employers' ties to terrorist activities overseas.
Jan 15, 2009 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology, memoir
The author describes his youthful crisis of faith and the search for belonging that gradually drew him into an American Islamic group that supported terrorist causes. I would have liked to read more about how and why his rejection of the violence and dishonesty in this group should have led to his conversion to a third religion, neither Islam nor the religion of his parents. But what he does describe is interesting.
Oct 17, 2010 Judith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hot-books-read
My Year Inside Radical Islam: a Memoir by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is the personal account of a young man’s spiritual quest. Impressed by a (moderate Shiite) Muslim classmate in college, he converts. After college, given a job in the office of al-Haraman, a radical Islamic charity, he strives to conform, adopting the strict practice and intolerant attitudes of the group. Later, in law school, his perspective changes with his surroundings and he converts to Christianity. After 9/11, discovering th ...more
An interesting memoir detailing an American's successive spiritual struggles. While I wouldn't confuse this book with great literature - the author tends to fall into a few stylistic patterns that repeat - I found the account of the decent into radicalism moving. Mostly I found myself wishing for a bit more, a larger perspective, more compelling details.
Nov 13, 2009 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting. It's a little scary, but I think it's important for people to understand the kind of threat these people pose and how easy it is for some people to be pulled into something like this.
Mr. Garenstein-Ross should not be seen as an aberration, but rather the norm. Psychologically, people cannot live in a situation where their beliefs contradict their actions. One has to change. Most of the time that turns out to be a person's beliefs.
Mandy Faust
Nov 19, 2010 Mandy Faust rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW: As I love any "a year of" type memoir, I was excited to read this book. However, I just want to punch this author. Dude, you weren't really inside radical Islam, you worked for an extremist charity where the head guy gets arrested for tax evasion. Is it possible they were tied to the Taliban and funded terrorism? Probably, but the story the author focuses on is more about his sudden fear for his safety when he decides that his views are no longer in line with th ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a very good book and honestly, it shows how some Muslims can take the wrong road thinking their reasons are religious when actually they're inspired by the political injustice that some Muslims face (Palestine, Kashmir, etc)

I was disappointed he converted at the end since he really seemed serious about Islam. But I am happy he was positive about Islam through out the book considering the nest of crazies he fell into!
This might be the most poorly written book every published. The writer is a stupid, gullible wishy-washy moron, as is his family and his wife. The book is filled with "Little did I know what would soon happen" and "And I didn't know that would be the last time that..." which go absolutely nowhere. There is no payoff after threatening one for the entirety of the book. He gets one star for educating me about some interesting details about Islam, about which what I can I say that won't get a fatwa ...more
Matt Friedman
Fascinating for me, on a number of levels. I appreciated the author's candid take on Salafi Islam, while at the same time not falling into the trap of agreeing that this is somehow "authentic" Islam. He recognizes that there are those like his old friend and mentor al-Husein who are genuinely Muslim but of a different variety.
Lisa Rathbun
I was very interested in this memoir and enjoyed reading about the author's spiritual experiences. Sometimes he was incredibly detailed about conversations and feelings; other times he seemed to skip over essential incidences, leaving me feeling like something was slightly missing. His response toward a fundamentalist Chrsitian in an early chapter left me a little uncomfortable, but I kept reading, trusting the book wouldn't descend into a "bash-the-Christian" leftist diatribe (and it didn't!) I ...more
Jan 01, 2012 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, brought up by free-thinking Jewish parents describes his conversion to Islam and his gradual participation in the radical side of the religion. Originally, his conversion was partly because of a Muslim friend and their desire to promote a moderate version of Islam. However, after landing a job at a Muslim charity he finds his views challenged by the people he worked with. They were all very fundamentalist and over time he finds that their views are making more and more sense. A very ...more
May 30, 2012 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Perhaps I was expecting something more from the title, but it's not quite what I'd envisioned. A well educated, middle class, intellectual drifter meanders into becoming a Moslem, becomes involved in a very dogmatic sect, has tangential encounters with other Moslems who become more radicalised and end up on various Government hit-lists.

After a while, our hero realises that he's become a bit too involved and dogmatic, decides to stop and becomes a Christian. We all live happily ever after.
Kara Merry
Apr 21, 2012 Kara Merry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book is profoundly on a weird topic-not something we want to think of all Islam I found myself glad at the end since the main men were hiding from the law. I truly like terrorists no better than anyone else and think they give Arabs a bad name. For instance America had domestic terrorism against Blacks we forget. The KKK functioned for years.
Jun 06, 2012 mahatma rated it it was ok
saya membacanya bersamaan dengan beberapa buku lain tentang radikalisasi dalam islam [ed husain, tariq ramadan, charles kurzman...]
kebetulan ini juga mengenai orang yahudi yang masuk islam [satu buku lagi yang serupa adalah dari deborah baker].
topiknya menarik.
berbeda dari deborah yang cukup intens mengolah pergulatan batin seorang yahudi perempuan ke lingkungan keluarga muslim pakistan, buku gartenstein-ross ini tidak menyediakan cukup elaborasi bagaimana ia berpindah ke islam [dan kemudia
I learned a few interesting tidbits about Islam from this book - but that's about it. At the very beginning he made it sound as if his story is about a descent into radical Islam, supporting terrorists, being fully immersed in the culture and then clawing his way back. The actual story is more along the lines of (spoilers, maybe?) - "I toyed around with the idea of this religion, I was around people who were conservative in their views, I grew a beard so they wouldn't be mad at me". At no point ...more
So much potential, but I got annoyed with the author's writing style. How many times is it necessary to foreshadow the path one will take before one actually takes it? In this book, anyway, the answer is: at just about the end of every paragraph.
Dec 12, 2013 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Such a disappointment. I had expected something even a little bit revealing about radical Islam - instead, the biggest revelation is that some guy refused to shake hands with women for six months. Not worth the time - however, for a fun drinking game, take a shot every time you read the word "bro," or encounter terrible writing.
This author changes beliefs to an almost comical degree. He speaks from a position of privilege and takes in the victim role more than necessary. His role in radical Islam was way over played. In short, this is a person I would avoid at dinner parties.
I literally rolled my eyes at his baptism. Despite what he says about "putting thought" into his faith, he seemed more intent on doing the fashionable thing. I wouldn't be surprised if he came out with a book detailing his struggle wi
Sep 01, 2014 Kelsey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have to separate my evaluation of the book overall from what I gained from it. Minor spoilers below.

The writing itself is thoroughly average. The author attempts to create a cliffhanger approximately once per page. The most extreme example on page 275 reads, "Fifteen days later, I summoned the guts and sent al-Husein the manuscript. And waited. And waited. And waited." (paragraph break) "EIGHT DAYS LATER, I opened my email and found a surprise. It was from al-Husein." More time is spent trying
Nov 19, 2014 Ailish rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2014 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Basically, a nice liberally-minded west coast boy born to hippie parents of Jewish heritage discovers a socially-progressive faction of Islam in college, and gets totally into it. It just so happens that there is a fairly radical group of Wahabi Muslims in his Oregon hometown. He works for their nonprofit for a bit, and embraces their ideology for a time, because like peer-pressure, yo. He's also a wicked-good master of the art of debate. Let's not forget that... it's mentioned frequently. Then ...more
Daniel Lyons
Dec 18, 2014 Daniel Lyons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very compelling memoir. I wanted to like Daveed but as a convert to Judaism I was just exasperated that he didn't even try looking at his birth religion or finding a group of Naqshbandis in America before converting to some boring Protestant religion. I wish I were so enlightened that it didn't damage my appreciation of the book, but I'm human and I didn't find his second conversion story very compelling or interesting, unlike his first. I guess he figured we all came for the other story and h ...more
Mar 02, 2015 Daria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
One star. So, the author learned about Islam, decided to convert to it, and then he "discovered" that he, as a Muslim, will have to follow the rules of Islam. That's basically the plot. The intrigue is that he doesn't like the rules, and the suspense is that other Muslims he knows do. In between all that, the author likes overdramatizing banalities from office gossip, to pointless accidental encounters, to minor social events at the campus and so forth. I was suspicious as soon as I read the tit ...more
Tuscany Bernier
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 31, 2015 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apologetics, islam
It's disturbing how many people assume Radical Islam only consists of blowing people up and shooting a JEW (and possibly insulting someone's dog or beard).

But this story takes us into the heart of Islamic insanity and doctrine. This is how you get from a normal (whatever that is?) person to someone who's willing to hate and abuse anyone who disagrees with their god-ordained righteousness. Even a nice guy like Daveed got self-righteously annoying.

This is how a Religion of Peace shows you its true
Read for the 2016 reading challenge: read a political memoir

I was really excited to read this book. It's a topic of interest to many people, especially now. I had no idea where this book was going to go, and I thought it would be a crazy ride.

Instead, I got a book about a dude who worked for an organization that was raided over financial fraud? Umm...where are the bombs, guns, and all that other stereotypical extremist stuff? (kidding) This book wasn't even exciting, and sorry, but, "bro", you
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