From Publishers Weekly
Addicted to the "I-married-the-Mob" genre? Try this variation: smart women who marry Islamic fundamentalists. In 1973, Swiss-born Carmen fell in love with Yeslam bin Ladin, Osama's older brother; after a fairy-tale courtship, including a semester together at USC, the two married in Saudi Arabia. Alas, it wasn't long before the fantasy turned sinister. By Saudi Wahhabi custom, women are usually confined to the home. Activities like listening to music or reading books other than the Koran are either sinful or shameful. Only Carmen's young daughters, occasional international trips and her dear, understanding husband helped her cope. Then, things worsened. The 1979 Saudi mobilization to support Afghan Muslims against the Soviet invasion gave religious hard-liners like Osama more clout. Carmen's husband, now a successful Geneva businessman, reverted to a more orthodox lifestyle. Finally, in 1988, Yeslam divorced Carmen, but by bringing charges against her in Saudi Arabia, made certain she feared for her life—and her daughters' freedom—if she ever again entered an Islamic country. Beyond Carmen's terrible story hovers the larger, later tragedy of 9/11. Remember, Carmen warns, the bin Laden brothers have always supported each other, financially and socially. When Osama dies, he'll certainly be replaced. The gravity of the events Carmen writes of, her insider's perspective and her engaging style make this memoir a page-turner. Photos.
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Married in 1974 to Osama Bin Laden's older brother, Carmen Bin Laden spent nine years futilely attempting to adjust to both the conservative, tight-knit Bin Laden clan and the repressive Saudi culture she was naively unprepared to face. Half-Swiss and half-Persian, Carmen was raised in relative freedom in Europe. Carried away by romantic notions of love and loyalty, she initially struggled to bridge the gap between her background as an independent Western woman and Middle Eastern expectations of female submission and subservience. Life among the huge Bin Laden clan was especially treacherous since they claimed myriad complex ties to the Saudi royal family. After the birth of three daughters, with her Western-educated husband becoming increasingly parochial and reactionary, she realized it was time to shuck the abaya that literally and figuratively concealed the woman she once was and desperately wanted to be again. Although the notorious Osama Bin Laden appears a few times in the book and his name is bandied about to hook readers, the real story is Carmen's bid for self-actualization within a society and a family that harshly resisted and rejected every minor challenge to traditional wisdom and authority. A riveting testament to courage and determination, this intimate memoir of one woman's spiritual reawakening and odyssey has best-seller written all over it. Margaret Flanagan
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