A remarkable modern memoir by a woman who grew up mainly in Somalia, in the Muslim faith, but who emigrated to Holland and became perhaps best known a...moreA remarkable modern memoir by a woman who grew up mainly in Somalia, in the Muslim faith, but who emigrated to Holland and became perhaps best known as a prominent critic of Islam. Her passion and eloquence is undeniable. Her questions, especially on precepts of Islam she was taught, and more generally those relating to power by men over women, are well and fairly posed. I did end up thinking, however, that her particular experience at the hands or government of those who identified as Muslim was so searing and unjustifiable or unforgivable it was inevitably very difficult for her to see anything good about the Islamic faith. Regardless, I think this is an important, brave book by a most intelligent and articulate woman. The author writes well and thoughtfully, with many well placed historical or literary references.(less)
When a PhD candidate (comparative literature, without a job, and feeling like an under achiever at age 33) finds employment teaching at a Vermont pris...moreWhen a PhD candidate (comparative literature, without a job, and feeling like an under achiever at age 33) finds employment teaching at a Vermont prison a fascinating and profound book emerges. The author deftly picks up on his students' stories - which are always interesting, and sometimes presented in many versions, as memory and allegations criss cross - and does not avoid the connections between the prisoners' misdeeds and his own real or imagined ones. There are also many good small essays on literature woven into the book. Maybe most importantly, there is a somewhat depressing overview of US prisons and the overwhelming challenges and problems of rehabilitation. (less)
A sweetly instructive book in which the author details how her mom raised her well. There are interesting insights on what it was like growing up with...moreA sweetly instructive book in which the author details how her mom raised her well. There are interesting insights on what it was like growing up with privilege and power, as the author’s father held positions as the US Ambassador to the UN and as the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, but more importantly what it was like being discriminated against because of skin color. The author’s parents and grandparents were actively involved in the long struggle for civil rights in the South and many of the books chapters detail this. This book is put forth as a sort of parenting guide, but has value as a memoir as well.(less)
The book jacket describes this as “an astonishing true-life epic”, and that’s true. But it also feels endearingly small and personal, straight from th...moreThe book jacket describes this as “an astonishing true-life epic”, and that’s true. But it also feels endearingly small and personal, straight from the heart of the child and young woman the author was. It’s not, as I expected, mostly an indictment of US immigration employees questionably detaining – essentially jailing-- a sick, elderly Haitian man – though it certainly lays out what was probably stupidity and bias accompanying.
It’s more the story of what happened after the author was left behind in Haiti as a four year old (just old enough to clearly remember wrapping her arms around her mother’s legs at the airport, and the pain) when her parents emigrated to the US. It’s the admiration and tie the author felt to her uncle (the “Brother” of the title) and aunt who parented her those early years, and how those ties continued and flourished through separation.
It’s also the story of Haiti - beautiful, often dangerous, ravaged in large part by other countries’ actions, bad policy, or inaction. It also shows why living in Haiti could be preferable in many ways to life in the US.
To write this fascinating book, Jean Sasson extensively interviewed both Osama Bin Laden’s first wife and one of the eleven children she bore during t...moreTo write this fascinating book, Jean Sasson extensively interviewed both Osama Bin Laden’s first wife and one of the eleven children she bore during their marriage. Osama’s strong will, power, and stoic idealism are brought forward through their direct observations. As Osama was close lipped with all members of his family, there are few details as to how Osama planned and executed the September 11 attacks and with whom he associated in his terroristic acts.
His son does speculate on why his father acted as he did. One of his theories is that Osama took a turn for the fanatical when the Saudi royal family spurned Osama’s offer to help defend Saudi Arabia from Iraq, and instead welcomed US forces. At the time of Osama’s offer, he was considered a heroic war genius for having ousted the Russians from Afghanistan with his Mujahideen soldiers. To Osama, Saudi Arabia had too much “secular pollution” and their embrace of the US was confirmation that strict Islamism was not being taken seriously.
Osama moved his family to Somalia, where his stoic idealism seemed to be morphing into harshness bordering on insanity, at least in his way of dealing with his family. By this time he had several wives. The wife and son interviewed for this book remember miserable marches overnight in the desert, on Osama’s order. Sometimes all food and water was denied, and no extra clothes or blankets allowed for the freezing night. Instead, Osama insisted all dig shallow grave like holes in the ground and cover themselves with dirt for warmth. And these excursions seemed mild compared to the accounts of family life later on the bleak Afghanistan mountain of Tora Bora. Every “luxury” was absent (by this time Osama considered even running water and heat in the home a luxury).
I was struck by how throughout the book women and children seemed to have no power or voice compared to Osama’s. They routinely filed onto planes or into cars on Osama’s orders afraid to ask where they were bound, or in general to ask any question. Osama’s wife’s philosophy seemed to be to unquestioningly accept whatever hardship or difficult circumstance Osama’s wishes engendered.
The book left me feeling Osama has many legitimate grievances and genuinely wishes to make the world “a better place.” However, his better place would be tightly controlled, patriarchal, and totally Islamic. I give this book 5 stars for readability, interest and its relevance to our world today. (less)
Good memoir by southern born and raised professional writer who covered the civil rights movement in the sixties and beyond. It is also valuable for i...moreGood memoir by southern born and raised professional writer who covered the civil rights movement in the sixties and beyond. It is also valuable for its evenhanded and rather positive depiction of growing up in a "home" for children who were orphaned or whose parents were too poor to care for them; along with the author managing to maintain a consistent if a bit strained relationship with his relinquishing mom. I found myself wanting a bit more personal detail in this memoir, particularly when the author glanced over his divorce and subsequent remarriage to a woman half his age. As he inserted lots of praise for the second wife's Anne Fleming's writing, I read her novel "Marriage, a Duet" next.(less)
Evenhanded, keenly drawn observation of what happened when a Hmong immigrant family's young daughter had seizures. The child was eventually swept away...moreEvenhanded, keenly drawn observation of what happened when a Hmong immigrant family's young daughter had seizures. The child was eventually swept away from the family and under the oversight of California social services, many doctors, hospitals, and foster care. Loving, tragic, best intentions gone awry on all sides. The book often goes off the immediate story to cite research and give broader cultural explications. I liked it best when it stayed on the story.(less)
A overdue and well deserved account from the often forgotten or disparaged corner of the adoption triad - the first mothers. Very much worth reading....moreA overdue and well deserved account from the often forgotten or disparaged corner of the adoption triad - the first mothers. Very much worth reading. It's worth thinking too about the parallels between US adoption practices and dismissal of birthparent rights prevalent 25 or so years ago in the US; and current international adoption practices.(less)
Very good account from a woman who truly walks the walk of social justice action. Heidi Neumark in this book reminded me of Paul Farmer in Mountains b...moreVery good account from a woman who truly walks the walk of social justice action. Heidi Neumark in this book reminded me of Paul Farmer in Mountains beyond Mountains. South Bronx is closer than Haiti, Neumark is a minister rather than a doctor -- but they are both remarkable people effecting change in the face of great adversity.(less)