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Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World Paperback – December 7, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1974, at the age of 15, Najwa married her first cousin, 17-year-old Osama bin Laden. She had grown up in a conservative Muslim household; he was one of the wealthy, powerful bin Ladens. She recalls a young husband drawn away on business and her life of seclusion and duty, giving birth to seven sons and four daughters, accepting other wives and children into the family and its itinerant homes. Omar, the fourth child of Osama and Najwa, recalls a severely strict father: no toys, no ventilators for boys who suffered from asthma, hikes in the desert with no water. Omar remembers accompanying his father to a training camp at 15 and their later confrontations—and eventual break—as he began to understand his father’s involvement in al-Qaeda. He also recalls conflicting emotions, including love and pride in his father and eventually shame for his father’s renown as a terrorist and architect of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. A compelling look at the intimate family life of a notorious man, as told by his wife and son. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

Review

“Apart from anything Bin Laden’s wives may have to say that might be useful to intelligence officers..., there is also a powerful natural curiosity about the women and their children: What was it like to live with the founder of Al Qaeda, to call him husband or father? As with Hitler or Pol Pot, you want to understand whether his bizarre combination of grandiosity and viciousness carried over to domestic life ― in Bin Laden’s case, whether he perhaps was an eerily ordinary parent, complaining about what was for dinner, nagging the kids about their homework....
The most vivid look the American public has had at Bin Laden’s family life is from a 2009 memoir by his son Omar bin Laden and Omar’s mother, Najwa bin Laden. They wrote 'Growing Up bin Laden' with the assistance of Jean Sasson, an American writer. The book includes what may be the most complete account available of the terrorist’s immediate family” ―Scott Shane, The New York Times, May 15, 2011

“The most vivid look the American public has had at Bin Laden's family life is from a 2009 memoir by his son Omar bin Laden and Omar's mother, Najwa bin Laden. They wrote 'Growing Up bin Laden' with the assistance of Jean Sasson, an American writer. The book includes what may be the most complete account available of the terrorist's immediate family.” ―Scott Shane, The New York Times, May 15, 2011

“Fascinating. . . . Together, Najwa and Omar provide an intimate account of a family life that became steadily more dangerous and bizarre. . . . From affluence and comfort in Jeddah they were reduced to penury and privation in Afghanistan, all the wives and their many children living without electricity, running water, or even real beds, in forced pursuit of Osama's jihadist dreams.” ―The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312560877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312560874
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really don't know how to describe this book----it is not a book that is at all disrespectful of Osama bin Laden yet it is brutally honest. Two of the authors, a wife and a son of bin Laden, clearly love(d) the man but they have quite a saga to tell about life with him before he became a hate filled terrorist.
Their description of Osama's journey from devout Muslim to a jihadist is fascinating.
Their "take" on the reasons why Osama came to hate the West, particularly Americans and the British, is ---again---fascinating.
Furthermore, the main reason (according to them) that he plotted, planned and committed the acts that led to 9-11 are, if they are true, shocking and seem to involve his feelings of personal betrayal by the Saudi royal family regarding certain events of the First Gulf War.
The book starts off a bit slowly but catches up speed quickly and now I want re-read it and try to absorb more details.
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Format: Hardcover
Bin Laden is just like a lot of spoiled rich kids, except that he's not. We find that he was heir to a construction fortune, but that he was a fine busnessman in his own right. He excelled at civil engineering. He likes to drive fast cars--fast. He allowed his first wife to select his third wife, as though she were choosing new decor for the living room. He takes his family from the luxury of Saudi Arabia to the poverty of a mountain cave in Afghanistan.

Sasson was the first major writer to open up the veiled life of Saudi women in her blockbuster, "Princess." Many critics, including the illustrious Christopher Hitchens, dismissed it as over-written and false. Then, after the Gulf War, we found out that Sasson was right. Now she takes us into the family life of Osama bin Laden. This is an important book. If we think of bin Laden as a one-dimensional monster, we will never understand him. He's an enemy of democracy and western liberalism, but we'll never prevail over him and his followers if we remain ignorant of all aspects of his life.

This is the most fascinating book I've read in a long, long while.
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Format: Hardcover
I was sorry when I came to the end of Growing Up Bin Laden; I wanted more. I read it slowly and savoured it as much as I could, but it is a page turner. I worked for many years in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; I have travelled overland through Afghanistan and Pakistan and can vouch that Jean Sasson has caught the atmosphere and the modus vivendi of the region.

As the stories told by Nawja and Omar unfolded I could easily picture the lives they lived and was touched by their loyalty to Osama bin Laden. But I was so deeply shocked when Osama told Omar and his brothers that they meant no more to him than any other Afghani, that even now there lingers an ache for them. Maybe one day Ms Sasson will interview Osama and get his side of the story!

This is an easy, informative and interesting read. Although the events are harrowing at times Nawja and Omar hold onto their hope until the very end when they are forced to accept reality.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We all knew,for the most part,what kind of man Bin Laden was. But Through reading this book, I have learned about his beginnings,and what drove him to his eventual determined destruction of the western world.Narrated by his first Wife,who was also his first cousin,and one of their sons,they talk about him as they percieved him.His first wife,who was very much in love with him when they married,eventually saw him for what he was,as did his son.He eventually took four more wives.A few left him eventually.This is a man who came from great wealth at an early age,and wound up with nothing. Toward the end of his life, they were without a country or a home,often living in caves high up in the mountains with no running water or electricity.I really felt sorry for the children,who got little or no fatherly attention from Bin Laden.The son he wanted to groom for terrorism,wanted nothing to do with it. He seemed like a gentle soul who just didn't fit in with his father's plans. This is a wonderful book that delves into Bin Laden's personality,his hatred,and his personal life,as told by his family members.If you are looking for a really good book about his life,get this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a "can't put down" until you've finished book. A brilliant insight in how the mind and obsession of Osama Bin laden worked.
I bought three copies of this book. My first after reading I gave to a friend. The second for my Kindle. The third to a friend who had worked for the Bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia
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By Ann on February 25, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a very dedicated reader and most choices are classics or biography. I am a tough critic so when I say this book is excellent that this high praise comes infrequently from me. Everyone in the western world should read this book
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A really fascinating read. I dreaded putting the book down. I love reading memoirs and this one was no exception regardless the controversy. The lives of Osama bin Laden's wife and child were astonishing and well written. Anyone a fan of memoirs and a keen interest in the middle east should read this book.
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By Gerard H. on February 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Growing up in the west, it's no secret that we're not exposed to the parts of the Middle East aside from images we see on television about terrorism and human rights abuses. When I saw this book about Osama Bin Laden and his wife and child, I knew it was a must read. This book will not disappoint, it's a fascinating look into the private life of Osama Bin Laden. For readers familiar with the Bin Laden family name and Mohamed Bin Laden's construction empire in Saudia Arabia, some parts of the book, especially in the beginning will be familiar territory. If you're looking for a good read from the inside of the family, this is it.
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