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Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,464 ratings  ·  318 reviews
Zainab Salbi was eleven years old when her father was chosen to be Saddam Hussein's personal pilot and her family's life was grafted onto his. Her mother, the beautiful Alia, taught her daughter the skills she needed to survive. A plastic smile. Saying yes. Burying in boxes in her mind the horrors she glimpsed around her. Learn to erase your memories, she instructed. He ca ...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Avery Publishing Group (first published October 6th 2005)
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4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,464 ratings  ·  318 reviews

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Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women, anyone with a curiosity about the lives of other women & families, in other places
Zainab Salbi is an amazing woman. I first came to know of her when she appeared on 'Oprah', talking about an organization she founded called Women for Women International . In this program, women in the worst circumstances in the world - Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Congo, the survivors of civil war, poverty, rape, and violence - are linked directly with their "sisters", sponsors who send a small amount of money every month directly to the women who need it. The women are educated in such issues as hu ...more
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a hard book to read. First of all, I hate reading sad books full of suffering - particularly if it is true. Second, throughout the entire book until Salbi's journey to the US, I felt a constant dread as I read about her life. I trust that is just a small taste of her constant fear while growing up in the shadow of Saddam Hussein. Third, I read far too much about rape and war and horrendous suffering. I do not know why I am still astonished at the evil that goes on in this world and how ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This woman is the daughter of the man who was Saddam Hussein's pilot, so she grew up in close contact with this sociopathic dictator. Later, she started an organization called that gives job training to women who have lost everything in war. She is AMAZING, a personal hero. You will not be able to put this book down!
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Saw the author (Zainab Salbi) interviews in a documentary "Faces of Evil", the Saddam Hussein episode. Was intrigued.

The book doesn't disappoint. I can't imagine growing up in that type of oppressed and terrifying environment. The book is well written and keeps the reader captivated and wanting to know more. Unless you lived under Saddam's rule and evilness you can only speculate what took place and on day to day. Nobody was safe from him, nobody. There are some unwritten events that the reader
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I would not have read this memoir but for my world books challenge, and that would have been a loss, because it is a fascinating book.

Zainab Salbi grew up in a prosperous and well-connected Iraqi family in the 1970s and 1980s – as it turned out, they were too well-connected, because Saddam Hussein was determined to keep her parents and, by extension, the whole family, in his orbit. I initially assumed that the title, “Between Two Worlds,” referenced the author’s immigration from Iraq to the Unit
Zachary White
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, book-clubs
Salbi’s story of growing up in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was tough to read, but also tough to put down.

She shares her life story of growing up in his shadow, as the book’s title explains. It wasn’t a story of growing up around Hussein, but a story about Salbi and her time both in and outside Iraq.

Hussein was able to completely manipulate an entire country through the use of terror. His power came from fear. More than half of the book is the story of adults being so scared that they forget how to m
D.J. Murphy
May 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi was the first account I have read by someone who personally knew and socialized with Saddam. Her book is a wrenching description of the horrors she and her family experienced in their "privileged" position as friends of Saddam. It's a very worthwhile account.

I'm struck by the parallels between Zainab Salbi and Fatima Shihabi, the heroine of my novel A Thousand Veils. Almost identical in age, both women were only daughters in loving Shiite families. Both bonded
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
If I had stopped this book midway or threw it against a wall (which was impossible because I was listening to it), I would have given it one star. However, the second half sort of redeems the massive deception at the core of this book. Sort of.

Ms. Salbi has had a tough life--two failed marriage, including spousal abuse, her parents' divorce, and the trauma of immigration. But her family made a choice to abet and uphold Saddam Hussein. And I get that it was tough to be in his inner circle and th
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read, and I loved it even though I don't usually get super jazzed about inspiring stuff. Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and her parents were reluctantly drawn into his inner circle. The dictator tore her country and family apart, but Salbi showed him who's really boss by growing up to found a successful non-profit called Women for Women International.
There are so many interesting details about Iraqi culture in this book, and
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Zainab Salbi is a fascinating and inspirational woman. She gives us a look into the inner circle of Saddam Hussein in Iraq starting from when he became president. As the daughter of his one-time private pilot, Zainab gives us an intimate glimpse inside his palaces, his social life, his corruption, his violence, his control of all those around him, his (and his son's)treatment of women and all facets of life in his inner circle of "friends" as she grows up to become a teenager ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zainab Salbi, and her family grew up as part of Saddam Hussein's (Amo) inner circle and lived in a Hussein's compound.

pg 24: Today, the principal theological difference between the two sects is that Shia theologians tend to accept the necessity of continuously applying independent reasoning to contemporary life while Sunni Theologians are more comfortable relying on doctrines established centuries ago by religious scholars who established 4 different schools of Sunni thought.

pg 207: Amjad's adv
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
zainab salbi is one of my heroes. she founded the non-profit women for women international, an organization through which you can sponsor a woman for a year in a war torn country. women tend to be the the fields upon which war is waged, their bodies become the battlefield and use of rape as a systemic weapon of war not only tears apart women, both physically and emotionally, but also entire communities. salbi's program offers woman a chance to put their lives back together and empowers them to s ...more
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, audible
About a year ago I met a former LA Times reporter and got to know her briefly as she gallantly fought the battle for her life with advanced breast cancer. Laurie Becklund came to me to help her research information about the over all fight against advanced breast cancer, and why so much effort went into prevention, and catching the disease early, but not much went into turning back the advancing disease.

Our encounters were brief, but detailed enough to expose kindred spirits. Having just lost a
Ella Burakowski
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Zainab Salbi was the daughter of Saddam Hussein's pilot. By being his pilot he was now part of Saddam's "inner circle" and because of that his family has to follow suit. Zainab was just a young girl when she was made to call Saddam "Amo", which meant uncle. Through his tyranny, he expected people to show their affection for him by forcing them to give him gifts of gold, kiss him, call him endearing names and be at his beck and call, which included rape if he so desired. Zainab's parents were ver ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book progresses much like the author's life does: it starts out mild--the danger of Saddam's Iraq lurks beneath the surface, coloring the background--and gets harder and harder to endure as the despicable cleverness of his manipulation and the cruelty and violence and psychopathic behavior is unveiled. I thought I knew a lot about Iraq, but I only knew post-Saddam Iraq. This was an introduction to a whole other horrific world: the world of being a "friend" of Saddam. The horror was no less ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm conflicted on how to rate this book. I enjoyed her personal, inside story of such a significant part of recent history. Gaining perspective on what it was like to be a woman in Iraq during those tumultuous years as well as a witness to all of the changes that country has experienced in th east 50 years was eye opening. The initial part of the book dragged a bit and, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, towards the end of the book I started to think, "What a whiner!" I know, I know! But I f ...more
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sheila by: Jess and family
Extraordinary. What I particularly like is that the age of the author almost syncs with my own and I can reflect on where I was, in cushy misguided USA, when her country was at war. And despite the different techniques and styles, Salbi's story coincides with Persipolis, which also follows a young coming-of-age girl with progressive parents dealing with a war--the same war--but on the opposite side. For someone who grew up completely confused by the Gulf and their leaders, this book provided me ...more
Sheida Nobakht
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The narrative language of the book is very sympathetic; In a way that sometimes I forgot that I was reading a book and rather felt like hearing a close friend sharing her memories of life with me.
Even though I had already heard a lot from Saddam, rumors and mostly real horror stories, but the facts about him narrated by Zainab Salbi was still in many cases shocking.
Being raised in between the two cultures of these two countries, which have much more in common than what their people think, I en
Amirtha Shri
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Multiple facets of a terrible circumstance unrevealed with utmost emotion! The book is filled with rapes and manipulations, that leads me to question the status quo - have we become better? have we lost motivation to improve because we are just a bit better? are we really better now and here?
Kim Blackham
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
*Warning: Following comments are politically charged.

Anyone who thinks the war in Iraq was wrong needs to read this book. I have believed from the beginning that Saddam Hussein needed to be taken out of power and that the Iraqi people needed to be liberated from tyranny. I especially believe that it is the responsibility for those in a better position to help those who cannot help themselves. While I may not agree with everything that took place with the war, I do believe that our world is a bet
Jul 09, 2008 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Noella by: Gina Natalino aka Mom
Shelves: toacquire
My mom read this book and then sent me this email:

I recently read Between Two Worlds and it has moved me to sponsor a women in a war torn country via the organization that this author, Zainab Salbi, started. I will be matched with my "sister" within 4 weeks. The cost is $27/month and provides women with the tools for financial independence and emotional survival. Rape is a very common war sport that is not often talked about.

Join me in sponsoring a woman survivor of war. Sign up online today at:
Sep 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy reading about other cultures
Shelves: book-club
An extremly touching read about a woman's life in Iraq whose family was very close to Saddaam Hussein. It's sad sometimes to think, all we know about Iraq and what we feel about it lies largely in our own selfish presense there. All of our soliders being killed, our economy's money being spent there etc. But what of the people of Iraq? The kind of suffering they have gone through prior to any American troops setting foot on their soil. I truly think that book's such as these, should become requi ...more
Karen Cook
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book!!

This author wrote a very touching and insightful book.I really enjoyed reading about her childhood, and learning about Iraqi culture. It really provided a different perspective and insight to a culture that I know very little of, other than what is televised by the media or written in the newspaper. Salbi's advocacy for women around the world was truly inspiring.

Anyone even remotely interested in culture,the struggle for equality, women's rights, or close examination of a dictator'
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone
I learned so much from this book. I really have never understood what is going on over in Iraq/Iran, but haven't really known how to find out. This book, while entertaining me, helped me understand so much about the middle east and the conflicts there. What an eye opener. People there are just like you and me! (should of already known that).

I changed my rating to two stars, because towards the end of the book there is a part in which very foul language is used. I'm disappointed and not sure wha
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very few books have affected me like this one has. I finished it with a sad, sick feeling in my stomach. My father was in Vietnam and I heard about some of the horrors that happened there. So I thought I knew of some of the awful things going on in the world. I quickly realized that I don't have a clue. And this made me ashamed and sooo very thankful that I was born in the USA. No things are not perfect here, but close to it compared to what some have to endure and live through.
This book was a
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A true story written by the Saddam's airplane pilot's daughter. Saddam before he came into power, what life was like up in the early days up to the aftermath.
This was a suggested book....thank you. I agree "a must read!"
Very well written for a first book.

self note: knitting mentioned briefly
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best, most beautifully written, memoirs that I have ever read. I couldn't put the book down. This is not the typical testosterone filled war story. If you really want to understand the sadness of war and the inhumanity of humans, you must read the books written by women. It is the only way, if there is any hope for the world, to see the insanity of it all.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book! An easy read. I wouldn't typically pick up a book like this. My job assigned it as a summer reading book and I reluctantly started it in July. I didn't think it would pull me in as it did.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some part of this book was from the perspective opposite of me during Iran-Iraq war
So similar and yet so different experience for Zainab and me.
She is a very brave woman to share her personal experience in this book
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Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi American writer, activist and social entrepreneur who is co-founder and president for Women for Women International.