From Publishers Weekly
The question "why did they stay?" haunts this engrossing memoir, as Salbi shows how Saddam Hussein "managed to make decent people like [her] parents complicit in their own oppression." "Growing up in Baghdad," the author remembers, "was probably not unlike growing up in an American suburb," but then Salbi's father became Saddam's private pilot. Gradually, the man who treated her like a niece became a man she called " 'Amo' [Uncle] not out of affection, but because I was afraid to say his name—Saddam Hussein
—out loud." Interspersed with Salbi's memories are her mother's recollections of imposed visits from and disquieting parties with Saddam. These riveting passages reveal a self-absorbed man who, as Salbi comes to understand, "saw no conflict between feeling fondness for people and killing them." Making a physical escape from Iraq was easy—a marriage was arranged in the U.S. to an abusive husband (from whom Salbi also had to escape)—compared with making the new life that culminated in founding Women for Women International, an organization that assists women victimized by war. Books to come will offer more historical and statistical data, but this may be the most honest account of life within Saddam's circle so far; not a rebel's account, although Salbi is certainly a dissident, rather, it's an enlightening revelation of how, by barely perceptible stages, decent people make accommodations in a horrific regime. (Oct.)
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Salbi, president of Women for Women International, an activist group for women caught up in war, had an unusual childhood: her secular, educated parents, part of Iraq's elite society, were trapped in Saddam Hussein's extended circle, and she grew up spending weekends at a house "Amo" Hussein purchased for her family and going to extravagant parties thrown by the leader and attended by his sons. Naively enjoying the perks at first, she grew up to realize that the socioeconomic privilege came at extraordinary personal cost. Salbi calmly but frankly looks back on those years, some of which were marked by war between Iraq and Iran, cataloging her growing awareness of the terrible hold Hussein had on her family, especially on her mother, who, in an attempt to save Salbi from Hussein's grasp, married her to an Iraqi stranger in America who became abusive. Relayed without stridency or bitterness, this compelling memoir is not only a story of personal success but also a fascinating glimpse at a fanatical leader, who, in his quest for power, sacrificed his own people. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved