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The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Centuryby Steve Coll
Synopses & Reviews
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the national bestseller Ghost Wars, Steve Coll presents the story of the Bin Laden familyas rise to power and privilege, revealing new information to show how American influences changed the family and how one memberas rebellion changed America
The Bin Ladens rose from poverty to privilege; they loyally served the Saudi royal family for generationsaand then one of their number changed history on September 11, 2001. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll tells the epic story of the rise of the Bin Laden family and of the wildly diverse lifestyles of the generation to which Osama bin Laden belongs, and against whom he rebelled. Starting with the familyas escape from famine at the beginning of the twentieth century through its jet-set era in America after the 1970s oil boom, and finally to the familyas attempts to recover from September 11, The Bin Ladens unearths extensive new material about the family and its relationship with the United States, and provides a richly revealing and emblematic narrative of our globally interconnected times.
To a much greater extent than has been previously understood, the Bin Laden family owned an impressive share of the America upon which Osama ultimately declared warashopping centers, apartment complexes, luxury estates, privatized prisons in Massachusetts, corporate stocks, an airport, and much more. They financed Hollywood movies and negotiated over real estate with Donald Trump. They came to regard George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Prince Charles as friends of their family. And yet, as was true of the larger relationship between the Saudi and American governments, when tested by Osamaasviolence, the familyas involvement in the United States proved to be narrow and brittle.
Among the many memorable figures that cross these pages is Osamaas older brother, Salemaa free-living, chainsmoking, guitar-strumming pilot, adventurer, and businessman who cavorted across America and Europe and once proposed marriage to four American and European girlfriends simultaneously, attempting to win a bet with the king of Saudi Arabia. Osama and Salemas father, Mohamed bin Laden, is another force in the narrativeaan illiterate bricklayer who created the family fortune through perspicacity and wit, until his sudden death in an airplane crash in 1967, an accident caused by an error by his American pilot.
At the storyas heart lies an immigrant familyas attempt to adapt simultaneously to Saudi Arabiaas puritanism and Americaas myriad temptations. The family generation to which Osama belongedatwenty-five brothers and twenty-nine sistersahad to cope with intense change. Most of them were born into a poor society where religion dominated public life. Yet by the time they became young adults, these Bin Ladens found themselves bombarded by Western-influenced ideas about individual choice, by gleaming new shopping malls and international fashion brands, by Hollywood movies and changing sexual moresaa dizzying world that was theirs for the taking, because they each received annual dividends that started in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. How they navigated these demands is an authentic, humanizing story of Saudi Arabia, America, and the sources of attraction and repulsion still present in the countriesa awkward embrace.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Coll continues where "Ghost Wars" leaves off, shedding new light on one of the most elusive families of the 21st century.
In The Bin Ladens, two- time Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Coll continues where Ghost Wars left off, shedding new light on one of the most elusive families of the twenty-first century. Rising from a famine-stricken desert into luxury, private compounds, and even business deals with Hollywood celebrities, the Bin Ladens have benefited from the tensions and contradictions in a country founded on extreme religious purity, suddenly thrust into a world awash in oil, money, and the temptations of the West. But what do these incongruities mean for globalization, the War on Terror, and America's place in the Middle East? Meticulously researched, The Bin Ladens is the story of a remarkably varied and often dangerous family that has used money, mobility, and technology to dramatically different ends.
About the Author
Steve Coll is the author of The New York Times bestseller Ghost Wars. He is a former editor of The Washington Post.
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