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Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  173 ratings  ·  43 reviews
An account of thirteen women who joined, endured, and, in some cases, escaped life in the Islamic State—based on years of immersive reporting by a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Among the many books trying to understand the terrifying rise of ISIS, none has given voice to the women in the organization; but women were essential to the establishment of Abu Bakr al-Baghd
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Random House
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Petal X Planet
Good points: great title and the author writes well. But she writes from the point of view of extreme negativity towards America and Israel. The author loses no opportunity to display her hatred of Israel and exaggerates when it suits her agenda and is likely to gain more sympathy for her subjects.

At the root of it, she says, Muslims are "increasingly aggravated" by what they see as pressure for them to integrate:
Britain's core national identity was enshrined in gender liberalism, women's/>Britain's
Diane S ☔
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
ISIS, Syria. They came from everywhere, Libya, Tunisia, Great Britain Germany, these young women came to join a new group that was supposedly creating a new state, a state where being Muslim was accepted, the true and honest way. Why did they come, traveling so far into an unknown future? For a variety of reasons. Some to follow a loved one, some like the Puritans who left England, came for the right to worship their religion in their own way. Some came from radicalization from social media, som ...more
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This work is as described: the stories of thirteen women from various countries and backgrounds who become women of ISIS. Their heart-wrenching accounts attest the weight on Muslim feminism and gender conflicts. Each with their own story, this book explains the series of events that attracted them to ISIS. The powerful voices of these women not only expose their decisions that led them to ISIS but also reveal the undeniable reality that their choice to join was not always just black and white, A ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a well-researched and engagingly written look at why young women from many Western countries were persuaded to move to Syria and join ISIS. Like many extremist groups, young and marginalized people were persuaded by propaganda and charismatic leaders. The author tries hard to put herself in the mindset of these young women and is very sympathetic towards them, but this may be the biggest drawback of the book. She seemed to absolve them of their behavior rather then look deeper at indivi ...more
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well written easy to read book that tells the stories of 13 different teenagers and women from various countries who left their homes and lives to live in Syria and be part of the caliphate.

While the author clearly sides with these women and definitely views them more as victims of society/government/family/male domination rather than cold blooded terrorists, she does criticize ISIS freely.

Many reading this book will tend to go one way or the other. The first being ' th
Amanda Mae
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
There is some really fascinating and sad stories in this book, but I found the narrative flow a little too muddled. I also got a little confused with who was who at different points, but that may have been the start and stop way I was reading it. There were additional breaks in the narrative to go into further depth of what ISIS was doing at the time, and while others may find that helpful, I mostly skipped over it. What I really appreciated was getting to know these women, what brought them int ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Currently on the Baillie Gifford Shortlist, this is the story of several women, who travelled to Syria. Some had boyfriends, husbands, or brothers, who had already gone, or who wanted them to accompany, or join, them there. Others thought it would be the ideal place in which to live in a country ruled by Islamic law and to practice their religion the way they wished. Others were naïve, unhappy at home, looking for adventure, enticed or groomed; either on the internet, or in person. All would, fa ...more
Scribe Publications
In this searing investigation, Moaveni explores the phenomenon of Muslim women — many of them educated, successful, and outwardly Westernised — choosing to travel to Syria in support of jihad ... In concise, visceral vignettes, Moaveni immerses her readers in a milieu saturated with the romantic appeal of violence. The result is a journalistic tour de force that lays bare the inner lives, motivations, and aspirations of her subjects. STARRED REVIEW
Publishers Weekly

Eloquent, empathetic, insightful — and essential/>
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sad, sobering, devastating, and eye-opening. If I could give it 10 stars, I would.
Donna Davis
Those of us in the United States don’t have much of a window on the women of ISIS, and I thought this title might help me understand them better. In some ways this proves true, but in the end, I couldn’t finish this book and I can’t recommend it. Thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for letting me read it free and early.

Here’s a quote that provides a thesis:

"Many of these women were trying, in a twisted way, to achieve dignity and freedom through an embrace of a politics that ended up viol
Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins
The wives, widows, and children of ISIS fighters are currently languishing in refugee camps; we’ve all seen the footage on the evening news. That’s what makes Guest House For Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni a particularly timely read, and Scribe was kind enough to send me an early copy for review. In it, a seasoned Middle East reporter explores the questions at the heart of the crisis: what would make a woman leave a cosmopolitan life to become an ISIS bride? Where do we draw the line between vic ...more
Jesse Mechler
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot put into words what this book will make you feel. Moaveni does an amazing job educating the reader and sharing the women's stories. It's a necessary read in today's political climate.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the unusual plight of women who joined ISIS. The author follows 13 women who were recruited, bullied, motivated, charmed, and mislead into joining the fight to secure an Islamic state in Syria. These girls (often only 15-years-old) were from Tunisia, Syria, Germany, England, and Eastern Asian. Most wanted a more relgious life, freedom from poverty & dysfuction, and a handsome brave husband.

Instead, they were married, widowed, remarried and stuck before their next birthday
Catelyn Silapachai
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating and important book. I couldn't recommend it more. The research is impeccable and clearly draws upon the author's decades of experience as a journalist.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This is another WOW book - I gasped, I cried, I had to put the book down for a few moments every once in a while to just let it all sink in. I am reminded of another book I just read (The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper), where simply because of the ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Azadeh Moaveni’s “Guest House for Young Widows” cements her reputation as one of the leading journalists covering the modern Middle East - with particular emphasis on the female experience.

In this book, she intricately and empathetically reconstructs the paths to ISIS of thirteen young women originating in the Middle East and North Africa, and in diaspora communities in Europe. As she does so, she also charts the evolution of perceptions of the caliphate and its members, both from within, and w
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was hard for me to think of something to write for this book, but I think I should. This book follows 13 women from Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa and a mention of one from the US who immigrated to Syria to be wives of Isis members. The stories are divided up and each woman’s story is told fairly cyclically throughout the book. The women’s stories are not told in full at one time, but you follow them throughout time. There are also timelines of what is happening in the US, Syria ...more
Karen Lewis
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
Being a teenager is complicated. Teens are notorious for rebelling—in fashion, music and activities. Add complexities of being a person of color in historically racist Great Britain or Germany, or growing up Muslim in an era of rampant anti-Muslim discrimination. Even in Tunisia, which is a Muslim-majority country, teens coming of age in the years immediately before and after the 2011 Arab Spring found themselves snared in a confusing time of political instability, economic strain, and challengi ...more
Amy Raffensperger
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While I do not agree with this author’s conclusions, one of the very few policy issues I agree with the Trump administration on is the refusal to repatriate US citizens who joined ISIS, this book gives an excellent look into their lives and reasons for joining. An excellent read.
This book makes the mistake of, on several occasions, veering from "I want you to understand why these women made the choices that they did" to "I want you to sympathize and excuse why these women did what they did".

And when you are writing a book about women who made a choice to join ISIS, an Islamic terrorist group responsible for:

genocide (the Yazidis), disturbingly gruesome executions, bombings of civilian locations (Manchester, for instance), human trafficking (women have
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

A gripping account of thirteen women who joined and endured, and, in some cases, es
Mike Morris
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Written with real compassion. If your goal is moving toward real understanding, rather than safely distancing yourself from these young women and their families, this is well worth a read.
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amazing book about the women that joined ISIS. It is very detailed and at times confusing. However, very worth it if you want to learn about them with open eyes. So sad and sobering. Amazing piece of journalism
Kathleen Gray
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and important book that challenges the readers to look at the women of ISIS with clear eyes. Moaveni has chosen 13 women to represent the vast array of those who joined voluntarily or were dragooned into the caliphate. She winds their voices with historical information and data points that help explain parts of their individual stories. At least one of these women will resonate with you. It's a cautionary tale in so many ways. As another reviewer commented, it would be fascinating ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can't say I liked reading about women who joined ISIS, per se, however it was an interesting look into their minds and their lives and what motivated them to join such a militant group. The history of what was happening at the time was a nice addition, however I felt that perhaps it could have come before or after each women's story rather than right in the middle of it. Overall, it was educational and I think it is a book that needs to be read.

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publishe
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Our author takes us on quite a journey, through a story that has generally been untold; the women of ISIS. Who they were before joining, why they joined, and then what happened to them as a result. The who they are is most interesting maybe because they come from a wide range of backgrounds. And what brought them in varies a lot, too.

Its obviously by its own nature a very polarizing subject to cover and I suppose is a book that could be met with a sort of scorn in concept. At the same time, it'
As a European woman who takes everyday freedoms and privileges for granted, it's hard to get my head around why any woman would choose to give up those freedoms willingly by moving to live in - what seems to those of us outside - a highly repressive 'state' such as that espoused by ISIS. In 'Guest House for Young Widows' Azadeh Moaveni helps us to understand why women from around the world - but especially Europe and North Africa - willingly went to join a murderous and extremist organisation. T ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is breathtaking, in large part because it deals with the complex issue of agency so carefully and deliberately. It follows thirteen women, all of whom join ISIS for one reason or another. The reasons are diverse - as somebody who has only ever perceived ISIS in a single way, reading about these women's different perceptions of the community they were joining was really fascinating. And the book doesn't shy away from really messy issues like religion, feminism, politics, and accountabil ...more
Lisa Hunt
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gosh, I have to say that I really know so very little about a lot of this stuff! So much new information here and a lot to think about. The other reviews say things much more eloquently, but essentially this follows 13 different women/girls from around the world that ended up joining ISIS. The reasons are varied - some wooed by ISIS bloggers or internet prophets, some following loved ones, some looking for a homeland to practice their religion freely - every story is a bit different. Anyhow, it ...more
Nancy Motto
Disturbing and unsettling. My emotions are all over the place on this one. I do feel this book could have been edited in a way that made it flow more smoothly. The book jumps around quite a bit so I had trouble following the individual women. Regardless, this is an extremely thought provoking book that I think will have most readers re-examining their ideas about the entire situation in the Middle East.
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Azadeh Moaveni is the author of Lipstick Jihad and the co-author, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, of Iran Awakening. She has covered the Middle East for almost two decades. She covered the Iraq War for the Los Angeles Times, and was a correspondent for Time based in Tehran, reporting on Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. She is a contributor to The Guardian, The New York Times , The London Review of Books. She teachersGuardian, ...more