My Year Inside Radical Islam: A Memoir
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My Year Inside Radical Islam: A Memoir

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  280 ratings  ·  41 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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Mandy Faust
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
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
Michelle
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.
Renee
Jun 06, 2007 Renee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jenny
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
Diane
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
Martin
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
Kelsey
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...more
Allison
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.
Tiffany
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.
Jeannette
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.
SPOILER ALERT:
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...more
mahatma
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.
tapi,
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...more
Felicia
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...more
Anastasiya
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
Judith
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
James
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.
Min
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.
Karen
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.
Amanda
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!
Andrea
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.
Michael
Turned out that it was a lot more informative about Islam than I expected, and a little anti-climactic. I guess when he said radical Islam, I was expecting terrorism and near-death experiences. Maybe I've been reading too much fiction lately, but it turned out to be a rather uneventful year. Despite that, it was neat to learn about Islam and the differences between different sects.
Kara Merry
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.
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.
Jim
Interesting and informative. Many great stories in the transition into and out of radical Islam. I thought the book was well put together and a quick read, because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I would recommend to anyone with limited knowledge of Islam, or those interested in taking a closer look.
Brendan Steinhauser
A good inside look at radical Islam in America. The author writes about his personal journey from moderate Islam to radical Islam, and his transition to becoming a Christian. Definitely an interesting read for those who want to learn how radical Islam recruits and indoctrinates followers in America.
Genie
Can't tell whether this guy is just a true believer by nature, moving from Islam to Christianity so quickly, or whether he just likes exploring new religions, or just likes the attention of being a new convert to something. But, a mostly interesting story of conversions...
Jessi
This was a decent read. That is, until the end, when the author converts to Christianity for nonsense reasons. His reasons are surprising and disheartening after everything he went through with Islam. It makes me wonder if he learned anything at all from his experiences.
Colleen
A great portrait of radicalization from the inside. And all the more fascinating for the story of how he found his way back out again -- including the stunning scene in which he argues with liberal college classmates in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Thompson
Fascinting true story of one Jewish man's conversion to Islam, his subsequent immersion into radical Islam and his ultimate conversion to Christianity. The tale of the conversion to radical Islam and radical Islam's stifling legalism is a must read.
Elliot Richards
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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