A powerful new autobiography.... It’s hard to imagine that there have been many younger divorcees — or braver ones — than a pint-size third grader named Nujood Ali.
Nicholas Kristof - New York Times
A shocking book that captures the social challenges facing
Yemen better than any scholarly work could hope to do.
Isobel Coleman - Washington Post
One of 16 children living in squalor in Yemen, Nujood was married off at about age 10. Though her husband vowed he'd wait for sex until she reached puberty, he rapes her on their first night together. After months of abuse, Nujood goes to the courthouse, where with heartbreaking naivete, she tells a judge she wants a divorce. Supported by the legal system, Nujood gets her wish. A dividend: Her case has brought international exposure to the archaic practice of robbing girls of their youth half the girls in Yemen are married before age 18. Nujood's story ends with her back in school, given a rare second chance to start her childhood over.
Headlines traveled around the globe in the spring of 2008 when the barely 10-year-old Nujood Ali “found the courage to knock on the [Yemen] courtroom door”; she had come seeking a divorce from the sexually abusive and violent 30-ish man, a marriage arranged by her father. French journalist Minoui renders Ali's life from the young child's perspective without sensationalism, as respectful of Ali's faith as affected by her courage. Through her unwavering focus on Ali's young life and her big victory, on her pre-pubescent innocence and ignorance, the reader is taken inside one poor, recently rural Yemeni household. As Ali's life (“I have always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers”) moves into the public sphere, she discovers (fortunately) the compassionate judges and the dedicated lawyer of a more urbane Yemen. Simple and straightforward in its telling, this is an informative and thoroughly engaging narrative—making more painful a disquieting sense as the book ends that Ali's big victory offers the promise of change to other young girls but no true restoration of her girlhood; she's about 12 now [in 2010, at the time of U.S. publication].
This slim book tells the story of a Yemeni girl married off at a young age (her exact age is unknown, but she was by all accounts still a child) who dared to resist. Raped and beaten by her husband, she did the unheard of: she found her way to a courthouse and insisted on a divorce. Luckily, she was brought to the right people who chose to protect and defend her. Her story is told in simple prose without excess exposition or cultural color. Aspects of her family's difficult social situation are touched on without elaboration, perhaps to protect their honor or perhaps because these were matters that the little girl herself did not understand. The result is heartfelt, as naive as one would expect of an illiterate child relying only on her own drive for self-preservation. VERDICT This will be a favorite book club read. It is too slight to serve most college-level women's studies classes, however, unless paired with more substantial interpretations of the social conditions in Yemen. —Lisa Klopfer, Eastern Michigan Univ. Lib., Ypsilanti
With the assistance of Middle East journalist Minoui, Ali tells the disturbing story of her marriage and subsequent divorce-all by the age of ten. The narrative will be shocking to many Westerners-a young Yemeni girl from a poor family, married off at the age of ten to a man three times her age. Even though the marriage contract stipulated that the husband not consummate the marriage until Ali had reached puberty, the young girl was repeatedly raped and beaten. Steadfastly refusing to accept her horrible fate, a fate that many others had suffered before her, Ali took advantage of a visit to her family in the city to bring her situation before a judge. It's illegal in Yemen to marry off a child before the age of 15, but the young girl still faced an uphill battle, defying not just her husband and father but her society. The unimaginably awful story is told in the voice of the girl, simply and clearly. To read of such distressing events described with the language and understanding of a ten-year-old heightens the impact of the story, but some readers will notice the lack of perspective, since the storyteller is not yet old enough to have it. However, this does nothing to undermine the extraordinary bravery of such a young child in the face of exceedingly adult circumstances. Despite the stylistic simplicity, this memoir will move readers.
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