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The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,528 ratings  ·  523 reviews
An extraordinary story, never before told: The intimate, behind-the-scenes life of an American boy raised by his terrorist father—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

What is it like to grow up with a terrorist in your home? Zak Ebrahim was only seven years old when, on November 5th, 1990, his father El-Sayyid Nosair shot and killed the leader of the Jew
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Simon Schuster/ TED (first published September 1st 2014)
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Evelien I saw him during his visit in Leuven. I liked the talk, but somehow I felt that I wanted a more personal approach, if that makes any sense.
Hannah Laura Parker I'd say yes, definitely. The writing is very conversational and straight-forward, and despite the subject matter there are no detailed descriptions of…moreI'd say yes, definitely. The writing is very conversational and straight-forward, and despite the subject matter there are no detailed descriptions of violence whatsoever. It would be a great book for a young reader.(less)
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Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want to be informed.
One of my favourite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi:

Zak Ebrahim is a living testament of this quote. He is the son of a terrorist, El Sayyid Nosair, a father who, in 1990, assassinated Meir Kahane, the militant ultra-Orthodox, anti-Arab rabbi and founder of the Jewish Defense League. Zak was just 7 years old. Then, from prison, his father helped plot the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - and was later convicted as one of the conspirators. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Mikey B.
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Page 12 (my book)

There’s a reason that murderous hatred has to be taught – and not just taught but forcibly implanted... It is a lie told over and over again – often to people who have no resources and who are denied alternative views of the world. It’s a lie my father believed, and one he hoped to pass on to me.

A highly interesting and personal story of a young man whose father became an Islamic terrorist. In 1990 his father shot and killed a rabbi, Meir Kahane. The author was seven years old a
Debbie Millett
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's a short book, so a quick read, but such an important one! For anyone who has ever wondered WHY would an American Muslim turn to such dastardly deeds, like murder or plotting the World Trade Center bombings...and what about the families? Zak Ebrahim tells a heart-rending tale of how his father, an Egyptian engineer, turns radical and the impact on his mother (an American-born Catholic who converted) and his siblings, as well as himself. Zak advocates for peace and love now. Of radical terror ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I think this is an extremely important story. It goes to show us that all of us, have a choice with regard to the life we want to live. It's crucial that we understand that no matter our upbringing, once we're able to think for ourselves, we get to *choose* to be who we want. As the quote goes, no one can imprison your mind without you letting them. This is a powerful message and one that I'll hold on to forever. ...more
Yigal Zur
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
amazing story of zak ebrahim who his father shot rabbi Meir Kahane. a great read of a struggle of a sensitive soul to battle evil
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
As much as i enjoyed this book I was filled with sadness reading it.
So heartbreaking how this family struggled to live because of the father's descisions that led to a disaster.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
What a compelling title! Too bad the contents did not match it....

Ebrahim implies that he was able to overcome his father's upbringing by embracing a theme of kindness and empathy. No problem there. But he wasn't actually raised by his father (who was in prison since Ebrahim was seven) and the transformation from a hate-based childhood to compassionate adulthood was too glib and superficial. This was a very unsatisfying read.

True, he overcame hardship due to his father's involvement in terrorism
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I heard the author speak on NPR while driving in Sumatra and felt inspired enough by his words to write down his name to look up.

Just recently I found the scrap of paper and then found the book online...once opening the first page, I was mesmerized. His story is so full of pain...and I couldn't put down his memoir. He was born the son of a man that assassinated a rabbi...and then later, from jail, helped plot the first attack on the Twin Towers in NY. He was brought up in a conservative Muslim
C.S. Boag
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this odd looking little book at an airport bookshop amongst all the airport rubbish, and it's a gem. It's what it says it is - the memoir of the son of a terrorist - and it makes for chilling but instructive reading.
The messages come out loud and clear:
1. Terrorists area fringe group - this particular one happens to be attached to a religion, but they can be anyone;
2.Young people can be influenced by purveyors of hate - although they needn't be;
3. It's a bastard being a son of a terr
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
This was such a powerful little book. Reluctant to read it, I waited till the last minute thinking I wouldn't learn much. But once again, I was wrong. The details of a family living with the aftermath of a father's terrorism was chilling and sad. It was important to think about families whose leaders make poor decisions that affect their children's basic needs for life. So glad that Zak Ebrahim could see and move beyond the limitations he grew up with. It's a triumph!
Lien To
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
3.5 stars ****

Extraordinary story of a boy living behind the shadows of a terrorist father. Alot of poignant and inspirational lines in the book, my favourite will have be "My father lost his way- but that didn't stop me from finding mine."

A story of faith instigating that we are the writers of our own stories.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
Tough story about how one generation’s loss of faith in the American Dream can lead them down a dark road of fear, hate, bigotry, and violence....but the next can choose a different path. This book is about the son of a terrorist, his father’s name is one many will recognize, but maybe we should know the son’s name more than his father, and have the names of those that can turn away from hatred and violence as easily called to mind and recognized as the former.
Susan Swanson
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A quick but impactful read. It's a blessing that Zak had turned out to be a beautiful human despite so much hatred and violence in his life. Break the circle, it's be done. ...more
Clay P.
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: form-1
I believe that the authors purpose in writing The Terrorist's Son is to show, and teach that the path that leads to love and peace is often found due to brutality from others. This memoir is written from the point of view of Zak Ebrahim. Characters include Zak's father El-Sayyid Nossair, Zak's mother, and Zak's stepfather Ahmed. Zak Ebrahim is a young boy who loves his family. All of his family is having a hard time, with money, bullying, and just being Muslim. When Zak's father is accused of a ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
My only complaint about this book is that I wish it were longer. I understand what TED is trying to do with its publishing arm--bring to book form the compelling talks that are the hallmark of TED. But some topics deserve more than the novella length, and this is one of them.

Ebrahim has a fascinating story; he grew up as the son of a terrorist. His father was convicted of murdering a renowned rabbi in New York and also helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing from his jail cell. Ebrahim w
Suhasini Srihari
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A heart touching write-up. The story of a bigot's son, who had to face such humiliations at a very age just because he bore his father's name. In spite of all the traumas and depressions, Z could hold on to having a hope to hope! A son, whom some thought, would continue in his father's footsteps, turned out to be otherwise. The sense of humanity and suffering that he was exposed to poured in him real truth of life, and that family is indeed of greater value than religion. I couldn't agree less w ...more
Oleksiy Kovyrin
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Inspiring and depressing at the same time... Inspiring to see this kid escaping the brainwashing culture of bigotry and hate, but depressing to see his own mother subject him to all of that shit. I do not care about her beliefs, no mother should just sit and watch her children abused and brainwashed for years and not do anything. She wasn't in Egypt or AOE - she's a fucking US-born American woman! What stopped her from telling the step-father to take a hike and just going out to make a living li ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I loved the idea for this book, but it left me wanting to know so much more. I didn't find out until after I picked it for book club that it was only 100 pages. It reads more like a long magazine article than the book I expected. I hope Zak Ebrahim will go back to it someday and fill in the blanks with more detail and stories about what his life was like after his father went to prison, while his mother was raising him and his siblings alone, and later with his stepfather. I would love to have r ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
You cannot choose your family. For most of us, that can be mildly annoying at Christmas but then again most of our fathers are not terrorists. Meet Z, who is not as lucky. What does it feel like to be condemned for someone else's crimes? What is it like to grow up in the shadow of a man who did awful things? And how do you develop a working moral compass in such a situation? Zak Ebrahim managed to get through all of that, miraculously, without being pulled into extremism himself. Impressive read ...more
Heidi The Reader
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A powerful testament to the strength of a person's inner voice in the face of an unimaginable upbringing and life circumstance. The part of this that was the most meaningful to me is when he talked about how "bigotry cannot withstand your own experience. I learned the difference between what I was being taught and how people really are by walking out my front door." (Paraphrased, not a direct quote) ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Like many others I was drawn to this book After watching the author's TED talk. Powerful stuff - murderous rage and bigotry is learned; it is not something that is innate in human nature. powerful stuff with a brave man.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A heart breaking book.
The love and hope that Z brought through out his childhood and believing his father when he was young. Things fall apart when he realize the truth from his beloved mother. A great story.
The last long break my heart "We are not his children anymore."
Sooraya Evans
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Great pacing and in plain simple English.
Would be great to have more details, though...
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Terrorist’s Son By:Zak Ebrahim
Book reviewed By: Sierra LeeAnn Christian

Imagine that you wake up in the middle of the night to find out that your father has been arrested, then later that day you find out he has been arrested and charged with acts of terrorism. How would you feel? Well sadly for Zak Ebrahim this terrible thing happened to him, and he had to deal with it in a different way than others. He chooses to tell his story in his memoir, The Terrorist’s Son.
I gave the book The Terrori
This book is full of love and hope. This book is about very strong boy who didn't give up and found strength to let go of everything he was taught during his childhood and teen-years and made choice for himself. It is close to Escape in showing readers inside world of a closed community. And it also show us the same thing -- it becomes possible to weaponize people when you cut their ties with outside world and start to brainwash them in a vacuum. When they know nothing, see nothing and cannot cr ...more
Katherine Uth
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about Zak and his family's side of the story. I liked connecting it to the TED talk that we watched because of all the similarities between them. ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Some parts could have been elaborated more. Not particularly a exciting story.
Chrissa Kuntz
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Can't wait to put it on the shelf in my classroom! ...more
Sally Wilson
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, read it in 3 hrs.
Kelly Parker
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was really short but still long enough to get the author’s point across: just because you’re brought up to hate doesn’t mean you have to do it.
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Zak Ebrahim was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 24, 1983, the son of an Egyptian industrial engineer and an American school teacher. When Ebrahim was seven, his father shot and killed the founder of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane. From behind bars his father, El-Sayed Nosair, co-masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Ebrahim spent the rest of his childhoo ...more

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