This short book, which I read in a single sitting, astounded me with its narrative and left me feeling a mix of anger and incredulity upon completing it. Before reading this book, I'd read about Nujood Ali, who has been described as possessing a "precocious self-assurance." After reading the book, it's clearly an accurate description of a young girl who refuses to accept a situation that she knows is wrong. In doing so, it turns out, she opens the door for long-overdue change.
Nujood doesn't live an easy life as a young girl in Yemen, but she still finds time to enjoy her childhood. Her father, who has two wives, seems incapable of supporting them on his meager salary, and the rest of the family must find ways to make ends meet. Her father, in an effort to ease his own burden, agrees to an arranged marriage with a man three times Nujood's age, with the condition that he not consummate the marriage until one year after her first period. The new husband breaks that promise on the very night of their wedding, and from that point forward continues to beat her and rape her nightly. This is not consensual sex, but child rape, pure and simple.
The story that unfolds from that point forward is nothing short of amazing. It's also heartening to learn that right from the beginning of her ordeal, several Yemenese men stepped forward to stand up for her rights, even while knowing that Sharia law and local customs would be working against them. It is also important to realize that educated, empowered women in these countries are also willing to step forward and challenge such destructive customs and laws, and one of them, Shada Nasser, becomes her lawyer and champion.
It is my hope that this book, and the fall-out from the divorce trial, will continue to help change the lives of women living within this type of culture, although perhaps not quickly enough. No matter how many times I read about situations like this, I still find it astounding that a man can rape a woman, as was the case with Nujood's older sister Mona, and it somehow becomes the fault of the woman that shame comes to the family name. How can this possibly be? How can a young woman be raped in her own home, and somehow it becomes her fault, and the males must protect their own honor by condemning the females? This horribly twisted logic (or the complete lack of it, truth be told) boggles the mind, and books such as this one help break down barriers by exposing dark secrets.
Nujood's father continually justified marrying off his ten-year-old daughter by pointing to the example of Muhammad, who married Aisha when she was but six, and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old. Some apologists insist that Muhammad didn't marry her until she was nine, but Aisha's own words, found in Bint al-Shati's The Wives of Prophet Muhammad, tell a different story.
"The Prophet married me when I was six years old and the marriage was consummated when I was nine. The Prophet of God came to our home in company with men and women who were among his followers. My mother came [to me] while I was in a swing between the branches of a tree and made me come down. She smoothed my hair, wiped my face with a little water then came forward and led me to the door. She stopped me while I calmed myself a little. Then she took me in. The Prophet of God was sitting on a bed in our home, and she sat me in his lap. Everyone jumped up and went out, and the Prophet consummated his marriage with me at our house."
It is time people stopped justifying this as a cultural/religious custom, and call it what it is: a crime against children that continues today, 1400 years after it was given credence by a man who claimed to be godly. Please understand that my comments here are not an attack upon Muslims, but on a custom that enjoys religious support because it was associated with the founder of a religion. It may have been a custom in times past, but it remains no less of a crime. Books like this are important because they expose this crime to the rest of the world.
Nujood Ali, a ten-year old Yemeni girl forced into marriage with a repulsive older man, refuses to put up with the injustice of the terrible abuse she suffers daily at his hands. Against tremendous odds, she will not back down until she gets what she wants: a divorce.
Najood tells her own amazing story with the help of co-author Delphine Minoui. This inspiring book, which comes out out in February 2010, has already been translated into 16 languages. The eleven chapters, plus epilogue, alternate between her determined legal battle beginning at the court house in the capital city of Sana'a, and the idealic early childhood in a remote village, leading up to her the disasterous union with her abuser.
Bucking the forces of age-old customs, family disapproval, and the tabu of "bringing shame to her family", Nujood's bravery and determination never flicker nor flag. She is completely sure of the justice of her cause, of her own self worth, and her faith in God. Really, Nujood is just an regular kid, like any other; she likes to play, to draw pictures and learn to read, and she loves her family--not so different really than millions of other girls who live in this mostly impoverished society, where men have the final word, no questions asked. But she has an internal strength to never question herself, and the simple belief that right will win out.
I think that, although Nujood's world may seem impossibly remote to our own, her book has universal appeal. It's the story of courage, of human rights, of passion and of compasssion. Little Nujood manages to find powerful allies within the justice system, including a remarkable attorney named Shada, and international support from women's and human right's groups, such as Oxfam. Her success has already inspired a few other young girls in similar situations to obtain justice. And it can inspire people like me, who, by comparison, live blessed lives, to believe in, and stand up for ourselves.
Thankfully, Nujood is recovering from the trauma of her ordeals. Hopefully, she will still enjoy being a child for a while longer. Gratefully, she has been able to return to school and sate her thirst for learning. Wonderfully, she has found a great reservoir of compassion for others who suffer. Inspiringly, she has set her sights on higher education and tireless work in the cause of justice, as an attorney or, possibly a journalist. You go, Nujood, the world is watching!
Had "I am Nujood, Aged 10 and Divorced" been historical fiction or fantasy or a grown woman's memoir of her childhood, I would say it is fantastically written.
"I am Nujood, Aged 10 and Divorced" is a true story, written by Delphine Minoui, an adult, and Nujood Ali, who is still a child. Obviously, the actual writing is done by Minoui, as Ali has not had much schooling. Ali's voice is in first person, but that is where I find myself distracted. In the child's words, I hear the voice of an adult. Her observations too keen, more wise than her years, more educated than her one year of schooling would allow. Sometimes, she briefly mentions religion or culture as a way to educate readers about the context of the situation but yet immediately professes her ignorance. She cannot be ignorant and knowing at the same time. Minoui would have done better to write from the child's perspective and intersperse that with a third person narrative when attempting to educate the reader about the religious, political and social issues. For these distracting lapses, I subtract one star.
The story itself is very interesting. I remember reading of Ali's plight in the papers. In the book, she tells how she was wed and what that was like, how she decided to leave and the manner in which she escaped (it was fascinating) and what happened afterwards. I learned many details I did not know about from the media. The time frame of her story is quite short, less than a year, and the book is able to maintain focus.
Ali is a courageous young little girl, the first girl ever to win a divorce in her country, and I hope her life brings her much deserved happiness.
on August 26, 2012
The story should be compelling, but I found this memoir to be remarkably shallow. Nujood is barely literate and the memoir was actually written by the journalist Delphine Minoui. I'm not sure how much of the book is Minoui's and how much is Nujood's dictation, or if ANY of it was her dictation for that matter. Certainly the author is consciously trying to sound like a ten-year-old girl, which is a main part of the problem.
The details that could really enrich this story are lacking. Nujood goes to ask for a divorce and is told this is unprecedented and it will be a difficult case. Then she has a hearing and -- presto! -- gets a divorce. What happened in between times? What efforts did her protectors make to get that divorce for her? It can't have been as easy as she makes it sound. Also, more details about Nujood's relationship with her family after the divorce would have been nice. She had, after all, had her father temporarily put into prison, and I would have liked some information on how the family dynamics changed or didn't change. None of the characters are very well-developed.
I can't escape the feeling that this girl is being used, and I wonder if she regrets this book's publication or will regret it in the future. Certainly it brought unwelcome notoriety to her family in a culture that prizes honor above everything.
This book would, I think, have been better off as a third-person biography of Nujood, perhaps set in the broader context of a study of child marriages in the Middle East. At least, a foreword or afterword describing the divorce case in detail would have helped a lot. As it was the book just left me feeling rather uneasy.
...is the Yemeni version of "Toddlers & Tiaras," but where the U.S. version is prurient and vulgar, the Yemeni version crosses the bounds of human decency.
Little Nujood Ali is a typical Yemeni child. She loves her dolls, she likes to play house, and dreams of going to school, maybe becoming a teacher or even getting married someday. Except for Nujood, "someday" is today. Her father enjoys the state of matrimony so thoroughly, he can't stop after one wife and family. Nope, although he cannot support the wife and kids he does have, good old Pop decides he needs to double the financial burden and get himself a second wife and set of kiddies.
To cover the costs of his nuptial excesses, he sells off his ten year old daughter to an acquaintance. Here in the U.S. we call grown men with a penchant for little kids degenerates. In Yemen, they are called husbands.
Technically a "bride," Nujood is in fact, a chattel, to be used as her new husband and family see fit. Her husband does not follow accepted custom and wait for the child to reach puberty before raping her. Puberty! I guess by Yemeni standards, this is decency and restraint...because as we all know, a girl of 12 is a woman.
I understand that Yemen is a society that lacks the benefits of Western progress. I also understand that before a culture can consider such esoteric points of etiquette as not selling off your babies to licentious old goats, there has to be a certain standard of living. Perhaps it is only through education and civilization that humans attain the discernment that allows this sort of genteel reflection, and develop the ability to differentiate between that which is decent and moral and that which is heinous. But come on, haven't we heard over and over again that the Middle East is the Cradle of Civilization? It's not a matter of not knowing better, it's a matter of greed and licentiousness and corruption...and it smells as bad in Yemen as it would in Yellowstone!
Nujood's abuse is not only condoned, it's encouraged by her family, by men and women alike. Her mother can't be bothered to help her. Her mother-in-law just wants a willing household slave to serve everyone's whims. When Nujood shows a little of the courage that is her stellar quality, the MIL encourages the husband really get tough. Ordinary rape, beatings and torture aren't good enough...not if one needs to show a tiny ten year girl who's boss.
Unlike most of the child brides in her country, Nujood was -- and continues to be -- lucky. She managed to contact sympathetic adults and, through them, some more evolved local officials who risked their own lives and welfare to rescue her. They have their share of near misses, but Nujood gets away safely and becomes a ten-year-old divorcee and survivor. Of course, this 'dishonors' her family and her husband. If she were to be captured and returned to them, either her father or husband would be justified in killing her. These baby rapists are very touchy about "honor."
Through this book, via an international education program, and her own personal dedication, Nujood Ali is changing the system (or at least starting to) in order to protect other children in her homeland...and particularly her younger sisters who will be next to go up on the block when Pop needs to prove his manhood with a third wife he is incapable of supporting.
This book was almost unbearably hard to read. It's almost impossible for Westerners to imagine a life where Nujood's fate is that which most female children can expect. Reading the book made me angry...I kept flinging it across the room and was on the point of enlisting in whatever branch of the military will take a women of an age where her first crush might have been Fabian. Fortunately there is no such branch since I'm useless at any form of warfare that goes beyond the "Am not" "Are too" stage. However, it did move me to get out my wallet and put some money where my mouth is. If you read this and get mad, contact Girls World Communications Center at email@example.com, a Yemen-based organization crated to help future Nujoods. There are other groups to be found on the internet...just google Nujood's name.
As I said, this is a hard book to read. It's infuriating and my blood is still on the boil. But it's also important to understand that the world still has its dark corners and dirty little secrets. Learning is the first step toward changing.
This is an interesting little story, already widely told in the media. But, good literature it is not. It is a brief telling of Nujood's story published to make a little money to help her family.
Forced by her father, Aba, to marry at age 10, Nujood is brutalized by her husband and she saves herself by quick thinking and some luck. Nujood's mother has borne 16 children although only a few are living. The children have no idea when they were born or how old they are.
Nujood's mother lives in fear of her husband as does Aba's second wife who lives with her 4 children in a tiny apartment. There seems to be no money and no help for the very poor who send the children out to beg or sell chewing gum.
The only hope I get from this story is that there are women lawyers such as the one who helped Nujood, who are working for women's rights in the country.
I learned a great deal from reading this book. I hardly knew where Yemen was before the Christmas Day bomber brought the country to the forefront of the news. The book includes a brief history of Yemen as well as information about the customs of the country. Of course this is the story of only one person, but she seems to have inspired other young girls to follow in her foot steps.
on February 25, 2010
The story of Nujood is powerful and amazing: a 10 year old poor, illiterate Yemeni girl, raped and abused by her husband, takes the amazing step of finding the courthouse and asks a judge for a divorce. The courage she showed in such an act is nothing short of stunning, and the strength and courage of those who answered her plea should not be underestimated either.
The book doesn't end at her success in getting the divorce, but also explores some of the consequences, good and bad, for her family, from the divorce and the resulting notoriety. And, there are hints of other girls who benefited from Nujood's example.
The book is relatively short, and it is a straightforward read, providing insight into Nujood's life and her tiny window into Yemeni culture, at first from a poor, remote village, and later from the city of Sana'a. However, I always felt somewhat at odds with the narrative: who is the woman writing down the story? There are clearly elements that Nujood herself would not have written or said, that are introduced by the narrator, and that made it hard to know exactly where Nujood's thoughts end and where the narrator's begin. One would think that meeting the journalist that would transcribe her (to date) life story and deciding on a book deal would be a substantial event, and yet it goes without mention, not even in the author's foreword.
Though it is written in the first person, I cannot believe that Nujood herself said (even in Arabic):
"My father's brother-in-law, the only one present who could read and write, acted as notary, drawing up the marriage contract. My dowry had been set at 150,000 rials, a sum equivalent to 750 dollars." There's nothing wrong with that sentence per se, and I'm sure it accurately reflected what happened. But it is not Nujood's voice.
And so, though I know the details of her story as presented here are true, throughout the book I felt like I was behind a veil, separated from the story, uncertain exactly whose thoughts I am reading and wondering if Nujood's interests are truly covered, wondering what is really going on in her head. I think I would have been much more comfortable had it been written in the third person, or even if the author had made more clear the details of their collaboration.
Nujood was divorced in 2008, and the last events in the book are from 2009.
I wish Nujood the best, and I hope with all my heart that a situation will work out for her so that she is able to attend school and gain her independence. It is hard for me, as an American, to understand how it is that her happy ending has not yet materialized.
This book is a valuable introduction to young western women especially to gain insight on what women elsewhere cope with. But what age would be right? Obviously, Nujood is raped and she is terrified. I might look at it as needing a similar maturity level as "The Diary of Anne Frank" - old enough to know there is suffering in the world, old enough to put oneself in an unfamiliar culture, maybe 12-13 and older. Nujood's story - of standing up for oneself, and of inner strength and courage - is one I think most teens would benefit from reading.
on November 7, 2010
Although written for young people, this book caught my attention because of its outrageous title: "Age Ten and Divorced." How could a child be already divorced, and the larger question: How could she have been married? I started reading it and could not stop. Little Nujood Ali was born to illiterate parents in a tiny village in Yemen. Her birth was never registered and her mother, illiterate and burdened with many children, did not keep track of when she was born. When Nujood's father arranged a marriage for her before she had even reached puberty, she found herself in a terrifying and lonely place, with a man who used her sexually and an abusive mother-in-law. In Yemen, women have few rights.
As the situation got worse and became unbearable, Nujood seeks advice from her father's second wife, who tells her to go to the court and seek a divorce. Alone, Nujood takes a bus to the city center and finds the courthouse, then asks a woman to take her to a judge. She sits in the courtroom until all have left but the judge who asks her what she wants. She blurts out, "I want a divorce."
While the custom of marrying off girls at too-young ages seems part of a backward culture, the book makes plain that not all Yemenis support this. The judges involved in Nujood's case were surprisingly sympathetic, and arranged for her to live elsewhere while her case was being adjudicated. The real champion who helped Nujood was a kind female lawyer who took on the case and arranged publicity to capture the outrage of the world over a child being forced to live with a man as his wife, against her will. Nujood was denied her chance to go to school, play with others her age, and make her own plans for her future.
In most countries, what happened to Nujood would be a case of rape, but in Yemen, it is not so simple. Nujood's father had experienced some setbacks and had moved to the capital city where the large family lived in poverty. He had many mouths to feed, and he claimed that he had gotten a promise from Nujood's "husband" to wait until she reached puberty before having sex with her. Nujood's mother felt terrible about losing Nujood this way, but had no choice. All decisions of this sort are made by men.
But the outrage over little Nujood's situation won the day and the judge granted the divorce. Nujood is back living with her family, but her case made headlines around the world, and strangers came to her aid, providing money so she can go to school. If you ever feel like life has dealt you a blow, read this book and feel the pain Nujood felt about her lost childhood and then remember to give thanks for all your blessings.
2010's "I Am Nujood" is the true story of Nujood Ali, a Yemeni female who was forcibly married off at the age of ten to a much older man. Sent away to live with her husband's clan, she is repeatedly raped by her new husband and treated as a servant girl by her mother-in-law. Nujood slips away from her husband's clan and bravely makes her way to a court in the Yemeni capital of San'aa, where she demands a divorce. In so doing, she takes on a deeply embedded traditional way of life in which women have few rights, even fewer of which are honored. Nujood does win her divorce, opening the way to an uncertain future with her poverty-stricken family.
Nujood's story, written with Delphine Minoui, travels backward and forward in time in the months around Nujood's marriage and divorce. The narrative is sometimes charming, as when it describes the beautiful Yemeni countryside and the better aspects of traditional family life. It is also shocking; its descriptions of rampant poverty and backwardness in Yemeni society are heartbreaking. The story itself is a tough read, made bearable by the positive spirit of Nujood, which shines through the narrative.
Nujood's divorce may have triggered some change in Yemeni society, although it is unclear at the end of the story just how lasting that change will be. Nujood was semi-literate at the time of the events in the story; the book is written from her point of view but it is unclear how much of the story is the voice of Nujood and how much is that of her co-author. "I Am Nujood" is very highly recommended to those readers seeking insight into an Arabic society at the uncertain interface of past and present.
on May 28, 2013
This is the story of a 10 year old girl from Yemen whose marriage to a man three times her age is arranged by her father without her consent. While the man promises not to consumate their marriage until she hits puberty, he breaks this promise and abuses her both physically and mentally. When Nujood can take it no longer she travels on her own via public transportation to the courthouse and asks to speak to a judge, demanding a divorce. Nujood quickly becomes an international hero, being the first 10 year old girl to demand her independence in a society where a woman's voice is and opinion is ignored.
While I found myself rooting for Nujood throughout the book, I found the author's writing style distracting which detracted from the believability of the story. The book is by Nujood Ali, WITH Delphine Minoui the French writer that helped her write the story. But the end result, at least in the English translated version seems to bounce back and forth erratically between the voice of a 10 year old girl, and the thoughts and impressions that only a grown adult could foster.
I picked this book up because it was recommended to me on Amazon based on my review that I really enjoyed reading The Kiterunner and A Thousand Splendid Sons. Just because it's about a Muslim girl, does in no way make it comparable to the beautiful writing style of Khaled Hosseini. If you are expecting The Kiterunner, you will be as sadly disappointed as I was.