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A vivid chronicle of a triumphant escape from cultural confinement
on February 17, 2007
Autobiographies often suffer from late-life authorship--a time when the fires are damped and the events foreshortened by time. This one--by a woman still in her thirties--is an exception to nearly every rule of the genre. Not least for its electrifying readability: it consumed every free moment of the two days it took to finish it. Putting it down was simply not an option.
This book will grab your imagination like no other, transplant you into a world you have probably never known, and introduce you to the intimate world of a muslim family swept by circumstance all over Africa, Arabia, and Europe. The complex interaction of tribes, clans, cultures, extended families and nations (and their consequences) isn't dryly analyzed, it is woven into a personal drama with the momentum of a locomotive. The love of family rides perilously over the jarring railbed of refugee life, of ancient and modern Islamic conflicts, all of it recounted with real compassion in beautifully clear English. This multilingual immigrant needs no ghostwriter.
Unlike the collection of editorial essays which comprised "The Caged Virgin", "Infidel" is a consistently focused narrative of a spectacularly eventful life launched almost inadvertantly into an unparalleled adventure in moral courage. But there's far more here than a clash-of-cultures story well told. There is no targeted rush toward a predestined liberation. The revelatory discovery of western freedoms comes late in the book and gathers like a slow-motion sunrise. Only in the final chapters does she defect from Muslim culture, graduate from the University of Leiden, become a Dutch legislator, a target of Islamic terrorists, and an incendiary revolutionary for Muslim womens' rights.
More than simply discovering western libertarian values, she shows a deep and critical understanding of their history, how they've shaped the modern world, and shows their prognosis for dealing with the festering problem of Europe's Islamic subculture. Her extraordinary life seems more an ongoing work in progress than a settled iconographic career. She has recently moved to America--the adopted home of another famously eloquent and consequential revolutionary: Tom Paine.