I found myself both loving and being deeply frustrated by this book. As a cultural or anthropological piece, it's deeply fascinating. Reading about Ay...moreI found myself both loving and being deeply frustrated by this book. As a cultural or anthropological piece, it's deeply fascinating. Reading about Ayaan's childhood, the countries she lived in, the life she led... all of this intrigued and saddened me. It is not, I will warn, an easy read. It is painful to read about her excision, about the beatings she received, about how her life was in most ways not her own to live. Watching both Kenya and Somalia fall to civil war around her gave me a new perspective on these historical events.
Once she reaches Holland, the read continues to be fascinating - but it also became, for me, more frustrating. Ayaan makes a lot of statements about Islam that, in my opinion, could benefit from some comparative religion classes. Yes, the Islam she grew up in was seriously flawed, promoted the subjugation of women, encouraged a lack of education, and demanded obedience. But Ayaan insists that Islam is the text of the Koran, and those who say that it is not an inherently violent religion are wrong - but religions are the people - they are nothing on their own, and many of the passages she quotes as evidence are found in the bible as well. Further, there are sects of Christianity that believe very much the same things as Islam... So while I do agree with her that change is needed, and I find her idea of an enlightenment period for Islam similar to what swept through the West, I also thing that her understanding of religion as a whole is perhaps too narrow, too limited. And in reading the book, I do think that a level of anger with Islam seeps through, no matter how often she insists that she isn't angry or resentful of the faith she was raised in.
The writing itself feels a bit stiff and dry, though - as if Ayaan has removed herself to some degree from the events of her life - and on some level, who can blame her? This only becomes more obvious when she begins to discuss her plans, ideas, and theories - her language becomes more flowing and eloquent during these moments, and you can suddenly feel the emotion that drives these views (I wonder if this is a result of the work being translated to English?). But the writing jumps suddenly from subject to subject, with sometimes just a short period discussing a thought or event before she moves on to another story entirely - and this, combined with the dry style, often left me wanting more - more background, more thought, more emotion. (less)
This was definitely a dry read, but it was also fascinating. It is the true story of a ship that wrecked off the coast of the Sahara desert in the ear...moreThis was definitely a dry read, but it was also fascinating. It is the true story of a ship that wrecked off the coast of the Sahara desert in the early 1800s. The crew were taken into slavery by the Saharan tribes and lived among them as such while fighting to make their way to freedom.
I'll be honest - I never really connected with any of the men described in this book. I'm not entirely sure why, possibly because I felt removed from them due to the way the source material was used, possibly because I just didn't really like them as people. Then again, given the circumstances they were in, I might be a bit of a jerk for that latter reason.
That being said, the author of this does an amazing job piecing the source material together to recreate this story. King's research and weaving are both superb.