Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What are you reading?

This past weekend, I finally began "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The book came recommended by either Bitch or Bust magazine, but sat on my table unopened the first time it came from the library. During my last visit, I noticed it on display at Woods Run, so I checked it out to try again.

The book chronicles the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali who "rose to fame" after the assassination of her colleague Theo Van Gogh for their collaboration on a movie critical of the manner in which Islamic women are treated. Ayaan is now under the protection of armed guard in the United States and a topic of current controversy as the Netherlands government (she was a sitting member) threatens to pull her guard unless she returns to that nation. She came to US to work for the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

She's still a teen in the book so I can't adequately reflect on her adult political views. I can say that the book is very interesting if you, like me, appreciate an authentic glimpse into the life behind the scenes of another culture. Ayaan's childhood took her from Somalia to Saudia Arabia to Kenya.

I do have to admit that the writing itself isn't particularly appealing. Ayaan will describe herself as a willful, disobedient child only to emphasize her obedience and fearful servitude a few lines later. Given that she is relaying the story in hindsight, I expect a bit more organization and reflection. I don't really have any sense of who she was as a child or young adult. I certainly appreciate the brutish nature of her surroundings - those are vivid passges --, but the adults come across as nearly one dimensional charicatures -- the absent father, the hysterical and bitter mother, the old-school grandmother, the benevolent male father figures, the lost soul sister, the redeemed through Islam brother, etc. And she's just 18.

My hope is that at some point Ayaan is going to acknowledge that the reasons her mother nearly beat her to death over and over again are much more complicated than being abandoned by her husband. I'm hoping that at some point Ayaan is going to hold her father accountable for her female circumcision because he abandoned her to an old-school caretaker even though he "told them not to do it." I'm really hoping that this book is going to surprise me.

I just finished Ha Jin's "A Free Life" which was excellent. In the wings, I have a collection of Christopher Hitchens' essays. I believe I'm caught up with the magazines, although there may be another article or two to catch in Ms.

What are you reading?

1 comment:

  1. i just bought 2.

    the best american poetry 2007
    poetry daily essentials/2007