May 25, 2010

Book Review: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

Well, the title pretty much tells the whole depressing story. I think the worst part is that it's not hard to imagine an uneducated, impoverished child being given to a 30 year old pedophile. The true life story took place in 2008 in Yemen and one of the main reasons I borrowed this book from the library was because it's a newer edition with an epilogue updating Nujood's story. She's still not even a teenager yet. To summarize, Nujood's family lived in abject poverty and like two of her sisters before her, she was sacrificed for the family's honor. At least that was one reason given. The truth lies probably closer to the fact that her father was a drug addict who couldn't afford to feed both his wives and his many children. It was easier to get rid of her and all it took was a pervert to "promise" not to touch her until "the year after her first period." How is even that age...13?, 14?, 15? acceptable??? In the two years since this amazing child and I say child, despite Hilary Clinton calling Nujood "one of the greatest women (she's) ever seen" or Glamour Magazine naming her as Woman of the Year, she's still a child. Please, don't misunderstand, I respect and am in AWE of what that little girl did. She knew what was happening to her was wrong and she broke taboos in a country where grown women are killed, legally, for less. She ran away. She took a bus and a taxi by herself and she found the courthouse. She refused to leave until someone heard her...until someone would help her. But in the end, if her husband had said "no" and refused to allow the divorce, she would have had essentially no recourse. She lives in a country where women are often barely more than property. I don't consider myself a feminist but maybe that's because I live in a country where I can vote, I can own property, I can get divorced or sleep with a man who isn't my husband (I won't but I could) without fear of a death sentence. The women who came before me and fought for those rights should be honored just as Nujood should. The epilogue that I was so excited to read (who doesn't love an update) was disappointing at best. Yemen doesn't have a foster care doesn't have a child welfare program. As a result, after her divorce (btw, both her husband and father were released without so much as a slap on the wrists), she was forced to return to her father's home. She did so, in her own words, to "protect" her younger sisters but I wonder how successfully she'll be able to protect them when her older sisters weren't able to save her from their own fate. While several international donations came in and proceeds from her book were supposed to secure an education and a good future, it hasn't worked out that way. Her father became ill and Nujood can still do little more than write her own name. A painful reminder that not all Cinderella stories turn out the way they should.


JG said...

Man. Those are hard to read. I read A Thousand Splendid Suns a few years ago. I could never revisit it, it was too unpleasant. But it has a similar story, though it's basically fictional but also rooted in truth.