The preface to this was pretty infuriating, but the book improved sharply from there.
I found the story fascinating without dwelling on the hardships s...moreThe preface to this was pretty infuriating, but the book improved sharply from there.
I found the story fascinating without dwelling on the hardships she endured in a 'woe is me' sort of fashion. I'm not sure her depiction of Islam is necessarily representative, but I can see how she developed her views whether or not I agree with all of them.
Although her early years growing up were certainly interesting from a cultural perspective, I was actually more intrigued by her years as a refugee and citizen of Holland. I don't know much about the political system there and was impressed by their approach to immigration - even considering the issues Ali raises. Also, it was amazing to read about her extremely fast rise from refugee to Parliament member. She is clearly an extremely strong, dedicated, and determined woman. At least from her account, her treatment by her government is almost embarrassingly silly.
I wasn't aware that she had an anonymous ghost writer for this book, and as always that leaves me curious about Hirsi Ali's own writing ability. It certainly left me wanting to read some of her other books - collections of published writings prior to this book, as best I can tell.
I have heard enough controversy about this book and its author to read much of it with a grain of salt, but it is fascinating and impressive even if only half of it is truth. Awesome read, I ripped through it in a matter of days.(less)
This is one of the mainstream graphic novels I always meant to pick up, but didn't think I would like. Now that I actually pick up graphic novels ON P...moreThis is one of the mainstream graphic novels I always meant to pick up, but didn't think I would like. Now that I actually pick up graphic novels ON PURPOSE, I thought it was a little silly not to have read this one.
The book is the first part in what I assume is an autobiographical series. The protagonist tells the story of her childhood in Iran during the social upheaval of the late 20th century including the Iran/Iraq war.
A child's perspective on a frighteningly oppressive regime is interesting, and the main character is both fearless and conscious of what is going on around her.
I wasn't thrilled by the book, but it's a good step into the world of graphic novels and a unique look into the middle-east.(less)
I wasn't terribly impressed with The Kite Runner, but only because I couldn't bring myself to care much about the characters. This book had me at pag...moreI wasn't terribly impressed with The Kite Runner, but only because I couldn't bring myself to care much about the characters. This book had me at page 1.
The plot is a little trite and over-used, but the characters are captivating and the story is heartrending. The author does a wonderful job of showing multiple facets of the characters, and nearly all of them are shown to have both good and bad qualities. I appreciate it when an author asks me to have sympathy for even the worst of villains.
I can't get enough about women in Islam and the Middle East, and this book fit right into that niche. Perhaps The Kite Runner was a better book over all, but personally, as a woman, I recommend this one. And I'm actually a little curious about how guys feel about reading this book.(less)
This was one of those books that I picked up because I had to get a 3rd book in the damned Borders sales that always tricked me into buying more than...moreThis was one of those books that I picked up because I had to get a 3rd book in the damned Borders sales that always tricked me into buying more than I wanted... It's been sitting on my shelf for quite literally years now (like, 2), and I just kept avoiding it. However, in my quest to plow through the to-read shelf I try to alternate between fun reads and difficult ones. And at least this one was reasonably short.
I actually picked this up at some point previously and couldn't get into it. This time I was determined though, and kept going.
I suppose this is as much a travelogue as anything else, when I was hoping for more of a sociological/anthropological approach. The author plans to walk across Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and the American coalition's takeover. (Side note: I did appreciate that this book didn't have the requisite "9/11 chapter" of most contemporary books.) He has completed similar walks throughout Asia, and all of these have been fueled by the purported hospitality of the villagers in these faraway lands. Unfortunately, Stewart is traveling without much stopping, and so spends very little time dwelling on much of anything beyond his diet of bread and water, his near-constant diarrhea, and his newly acquired dog, Babur. Not that he complains, really, it's just that he has little opportunity to absorb anything else. Brief conversation over a sparse meal is pretty much par for the course.
I hoped to get a feel for the culture of Afghanistan, but I mostly got descriptions of a barren land - usually snow covered. Since Stewart only spends 1 night at a time with his (often unwilling) hosts, there is little conversation had or culture shared. The handful of men who stay with him the longest are portrayed as money grubbing and violent bullies, as are many of the other Afghans he meets. However, I can't say I altogether blame them! Stewart is wandering a completely impoverished land expecting to live on the famed generosity of its people. While this seems like a grand social experiment, it is also a pretty presumptuous one.
This really struck me towards the end as Stewart enters progressively more dangerous areas. He disregards all suggestions to avoid traveling during the winter, but is rather offended when villages only begrudgingly send guides with him. Similarly, he crosses fields of land mines or regions patrolled by hostile armed men of various opposing factions - again, despite the prevailing wisdom of his hosts. Many of the risks just seemed ignorant, and I was irritated each time that he involved others in his ill-advised quest - including the dog that he frequently describes DRAGGING WITH HIM.
Since by the end I felt that Stewart was a self-absorbed twit, there wasn't much left to like about the book. He tries to give historical context to his travels by quoting older texts from previous explorers, but he never provides enough insight to make me care. Since he spends little time with the people, there's little he can say about them, and so, has little to hold my interest with. As someone who particularly enjoys reading about women in Islamic countries, I was disappointed by the utter lack of them in the book. At least that flaw is hardly the fault of the author since he was rarely even invited into the private rooms of the homes he visited.
I wasn't surprised by how much I disliked this book, though I do wish it had been as interesting as Stewart's journey surely was.
I don't remember when I read this, but it was one of the first books that opened my eyes to a Muslim culture. Shabanu was such an impressively rebelli...moreI don't remember when I read this, but it was one of the first books that opened my eyes to a Muslim culture. Shabanu was such an impressively rebellious girl fighting her society while still staying loyal to her family. (less)
This book was... conceptually interesting, but poorly written.
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I can't believe this was all I had to say about this book. First, j...moreThis book was... conceptually interesting, but poorly written.
-- Edited 08.08.08 --
I can't believe this was all I had to say about this book. First, just after I read it, I was only mildly annoyed. The author is an incompetent, brash, selfish, idiotic woman who made no effort to even pretend to respect or assimilate into the culture she encountered. She bashed her way into Kabul, first perhaps with good intentions, and then she just proceeded to ignore every cultural more that she could. Her decisions were impetuous and illogical, and this was all explained as Ah! Crazy American!
She married a native with barely any acquaintance, and then proceeded to be upset that she was a second wife. Her first beauty school failed and she pouted and whined until she got a new one. Rather than move WITH the culture she was trying to help, she instead fought it every step of the way.
Obviously I am just as disgusted by the lives of women in Kabul as many other people. Many of these women are treated like trash and sex slaves, and are disrespected by fathers, husbands, and even sons. It is an unbearable situation, and the idea of a beauty school is actually founded in the culture of the attentiveness to beauty in Afghanistan (before the Taliban). But the author's refusal to accept the requirements of her status as a fairly clueless American -she makes ZERO effort to learn the language in the years she lives in Afghanistan! - only ends up endangering the women she has tried to help.
As it turns out, many of the women in the book suffered later as the author fled the country. Women she made no effort to disguise in her book were punished by angry and offended family members. Her "friends" and students suffered the consequences of her brash and inconsiderate behavior.
The only good thing I can say about the author - she did not seem afraid to admit to her frequent tantrums, illogical decisions, or cowardice. Perhaps this was just because she was able to explain it away in her own mind and saw no fault of her own, I'm just not sure.
Ugh, this book was just absolutely infuriating, poorly written, and worse and worse the more you read about the situation afterwards.(less)
It has been awhile since I read this book, but I remember I was frustrated as I read it. I believe I was irritated because I felt the book was rather...moreIt has been awhile since I read this book, but I remember I was frustrated as I read it. I believe I was irritated because I felt the book was rather condescending both to the reader and to the subjects of the book. I have read quite a few books about women in the Middle East, and this was a book that just did not sit well with me. Similar to Kabul Beauty School (though nowhere near as infuriating), it just seemed willing to sacrifice these characters as stereotypes to share with oblivious Americans. The books read weren't particularly stellar, nor were the assessments of them or the tie-ins to the life going on around them.(less)
I have been putting this review off for about a week - just haven't felt like sitting down and writing stuff out.
I kept seeing this book on the 3 for...moreI have been putting this review off for about a week - just haven't felt like sitting down and writing stuff out.
I kept seeing this book on the 3 for 2 tables at Borders, and would pick it up thinking it looked promising. The description on the back always ended up boring me, and I just never cared enough to buy it. Ended up getting it for fifty cents at the book swap, and gave it a try.
Definitely a worthwhile read! It really is an interesting look at one man's development from a climber in pursuit of a peak to a dedicated man doing almost anything to help the people that saved him.
The story follows Greg Mortenson as he tries to build his first school in the mountains of Pakistan, through the creation of a foundation he runs, all the way through his attempts to help Afghani refugees and children. It really is an inspiring and fascinating story, and it reads quickly enough to not get bogged down.
It certainly is not a perfect book, however. The book is written by Mortenson himself and another writer, yet is written in the 3rd person. As other reviewers have noted, the constant 'Greg is a saint' refrain in EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER is a little exhausting - and seems a little odd in a book with the subject billed as an author.
And while the people he helps regard Mortenson as a saint, it seems clear that his American colleagues and his families really struggle with him. On one hand, I don't think Mortenson wants the book to be about HIM, and I can see why he would not want his personal failings and struggles to become too distracting. However, I think that showing the rough patches of Greg's life would give a more rounded view of this man who is so willing to sacrifice other parts of his life to his cause. It also would give a bit of a rest from the saintly depiction - making all of the comments on his character a bit more believable.
I really respect Mortenson's approach. He so clearly cares about these people, and is completely respectful of the culture he is involved with. He makes efforts to dress like the people he aids, learns the language, and even learns to pray. He doesn't seem to want to spread his beliefs or views so much as subsidize what is already there. Although the book is ostensibly about his schools for girls, he really provides all kinds of aid to all people - only being sure that the aid goes to ALL people - men and women, girls and boys.
Unfortunately, the last bit of the book, about Afghanistan, seems a little rushed. Particularly frustrating because Greg's schools contrast so neatly with the madhrasas, and there is certainly HUGE cultural impact made by providing a secular education as an option to poorer Muslim families.
Despite the book's flaws, I did enjoy it, and it was a fantastic example of what good Americans can do. When compared to similar books like Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Kabul Beauty School, Three Cups of Tea is a SHINING example of sharing our money and compassion without forcing our own beliefs onto others. (less)
Quanta Ahmed is a Muslim woman, a doctor, with a bit of a patchwork background - as I understand it she is a British Muslim (parents from Pakistan I think?) who studied and worked in the US prior to her move to Saudi. So she has an interesting perspective on Saudi Arabia, Islam, feminism, and veiling.
Her Muslim upbringing means that she doesn't walk into her situation completely baffled and horrified, she has more sympathy for the perspective of her coworkers. At the same time, "their" Islam versus her own beliefs and experiences with the religion ends in culture shock.
The book was at its best when Qanta was recounting her coworkers experiences and telling stories of her time spent in Saudi. It got boring and irritating when she started moving into more personal territory - her flirtation with 'dating' in Saudi, in particular stands out as something I just found annoying. I'm sure there is some value in the firsthand account of trying to find romance in that culture, but I think I wanted more remove from the author and less embarrasing schoolgirl gushing about how handsome her beau was.
Something that struck me as odd was the elaborate descriptions of her characters. So much is said about the 'exoticization' of other races in the West, and her lush depictions of all of these gorgeous women seemed a little much. Perhaps she was trying to point out that under the veils these women are beautiful, stylish, and WOMEN, but it got a little too descriptive and I can only read about how full their eyelashes are so many times.
Towards the end of the book she recounts her experience being in the Middle East during September 11th. That chapter is rather seperate from the tone of the rest of the book as the author can't relate to these people she has lived and worked with for 2 years. It was a little horrifying, and somewhat demonizing, and it's clear that the author hasn't quite forgiven them for it.
At any rate, she brings an interesting perspective from an interesting situation. If you're interested in upper-class (but not royal) Saudi culture from a Western Muslim perspective, this is probably your chance.(less)
A lot of what Hirsi Ali says in this book seems like it's just waiting to be jumped on my racist right wing jerks. But that doesn't mean she doesn't m...moreA lot of what Hirsi Ali says in this book seems like it's just waiting to be jumped on my racist right wing jerks. But that doesn't mean she doesn't make valid points.(less)
Picked this up from Costco while my parents were here. I had no idea that it was a book written in Arabic and translated.
Really interesting concept fo...morePicked this up from Costco while my parents were here. I had no idea that it was a book written in Arabic and translated.
Really interesting concept for a book - it is a series of emails being sent all over Saudi society about a group of 4 friends over the course of 6 years. Being translated from the Arabic you can really tell that some passages are awkward to translate to English - not so much because of a language barrier, but because we do not have equivilant social systems. I don't think the book suffers for this though, and there is a short preface explaining that the book is translated and that certain things are difficult to translate culturally.
The heartbreaks of these young women are absolutely gut-wrenching, and it is a VERY harsh criticism of Saudi men. The author of the emails doesn't come out and bash them, and she makes it clear that she is not saying ALL men are like this, but the story of each of these women includes emotional pain and mistreatment.
I think this book (along with book:[Infidel] which I read recently) shows the problems that Western culture has created in educated Muslim women in particular. They are exposed to Western ideas and expectations of equality, personal happiness, freedom, and true love are introduced. But they live in a society where these aren't prized or even encouraged. So young women are caught in between their Western hopes and their social realities. It is not that heartbreak is worse than the stories of physical abuse, but these young woman grow up with such clear hopes of a modern man and true love, only to find that their culture doesn't support it.(less)
This was a textbook for one of my classes in college, and I remember reading a few chapters. Either I had a much stronger understanding of the religio...moreThis was a textbook for one of my classes in college, and I remember reading a few chapters. Either I had a much stronger understanding of the religion while in college, or I am totally thinking of other readings we did.
I find Islam a fascinating religion, and was looking forward to learning more about the basis and history. Unfortunately, this book was so dry as to be difficult to even process the information.
I'm not sure I learned much of anything since I just got lost in Arabic names and dates. I suppose I'm just showing my lack of attention span or academic tolerance, but I'd like a more engaging history.(less)
This is the book that sparked my fascination with women in Islam. I actually read this when I was younger - middle school probably? - and then was jus...moreThis is the book that sparked my fascination with women in Islam. I actually read this when I was younger - middle school probably? - and then was just surprised at how different her world was as a child. I had no idea who the author was, or really any context at all. Then we read the book in a comparative sociology class, and I was reminded of how much I loved the book.
The book is about Mernissi's childhood in a harem, and first you have to understand that a harem is not the stereotypical 1001 Nights fantasy. The story is not as harsh as other things I've read by Mernissi and focusses more on the interesting and pleasant aspects of her girlhood while presenting the underlying problems. I was not left horrified at the very idea of her life, but surprised that people could be so different - I think an approrpriate approach to a book that I found in the YA section.
Starting my trend of books about women in Islam with a book that didn't start right out with stories of women left to starve (like the Princess trilogy which was my 2nd foray into the subject) kept me reading with a bit more of an open mind. I started reading because the culture intrigued me, not for any urge to change it.
Just a really interesting book, both as a kid and as an adult.(less)
I was theoretically going to write a paper and do a project on this book. I practically failed out of the class I bought this book for, but came out a...moreI was theoretically going to write a paper and do a project on this book. I practically failed out of the class I bought this book for, but came out absolutely INFATUATED with this book.
Utterly intriguing book about the representation of Scheherazade and harem life in the West. It discusses representations in classic art, literature, and (most fun!) movies. It's been several years since I read it now, so I hesitate to go into more shady details...
All I know is that I DEVOURED this book and took tons of notes. It left me wanting to read more more more on this topic, and what better recommendation could you ask for?!
I gave my copy to my professor, but I'm actually tempted to go out and buy one again.(less)
Definitely an interesting book, but not a particularly well-written one. A series of short biographies of American women and their relationship to Isl...moreDefinitely an interesting book, but not a particularly well-written one. A series of short biographies of American women and their relationship to Islam. Some women are American converts, others are immigrants, others are women who have left Islam for various reasons.
Each woman has a valuable and unique story that I enjoyed reading. Some women's stories are linked - mothers and daughters, friends, or members of the same community. Every perspective opens up another window to Islam in America, most of which I had never considered.
I found the women who are melding their previous culture to a new religion to be the most interesting. Latinas from a Catholic tradition, or a Japanese-American from the South are not women I would have considered as Muslims, nor is it a transition I expect was easy.
With such interesting women, it seems that the author struggled to get everything in. Each woman's story is so short that they start to sound a little repetitive. It's like a Who's Who of Muslim women and the book suffers for it. Rather than pulling the stories together and reflecting on the power of these experiences, the author takes the easy way out by piling short essays one after another. The reader is left to do the comparison, but without the breadth of knowledge of these women that the author has.
The book shares unique perspectives, but there are other books about women in Islam that I've found much more interesting. This is the first book I've read about American women, but it was not so compelling that I'd recommend it over other better books that reflect similar circumstances. Without a decent knowledge of some of these issues (veiling, women's rights) in other contexts and countries, I'm not sure this book would have had much value.(less)