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Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabiaby Carmen Bin Ladin
Synopses & Reviews
On September 11, 2001, Carmen Bin Ladin heard the news that the Twin Towers had been struck. She instinctively knew that her brother-in-law was involved in these horrifying acts of terrorism, and her heart went out to America. She also knew that her life and the lives of her daughters would never be the same again.
In 1974 Carmen, half-Swiss and half-Persian, married into the Bin Laden family. She was young and in love, an independent European woman about to join a complex clan and a culture she neither knew nor understood. In Saudi Arabia, she was forbidden to leave her home without the head-to-toe black abaya that completely covered her. Her face could never be seen by a man outside the family. And according to Saudi law, her husband could divorce her at will, without any kind of court procedure, and take her children away from her forever.
Carmen was an outsider among the Bin Laden wives, their closets full of haute couture dresses, their rights so restricted that they could not go outside their homes — not even to cross the street — without a chaperone. The author takes us inside the hearts and minds of these women — always at the mercy of the husbands who totally control their lives, and always convinced that their religion and culture are superior to any other. And as Carmen tells of her struggle to save her marriage and raise her daughters to be freethinking young women, she describes this family's ties to the Saudi royal family and introduces us to the ever loyal Bin Laden brothers, including one particular brother-in-law she was to encounter — Osama.
In 1988, in Switzerland, Carmen Bin Ladin separated from her husband and began one of her toughest battles: to gain the custody of her three daughters. Now, with her candid memoir, she dares to pull off the veils that conceal one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressive countries in the world — and the Bin Laden family's role within it. Inside the Kingdom is shocking, impossible to put down, and a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the events of today's world.
"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. Agent, Susanna Lea. (July 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Makes a fiery case against what its author calls the oppression and fanaticism that dominates much of Saudi society. Her unabashed conclusion: 'The Saudis are the Taliban, in luxury.'" The New York Times
"[C}hronicles her nine years of married life in a puritanical, male-dominated community where 'women are no more than house pets."...The book is a diary-style account of her struggle to cope with rules and strictures as suffocating as the desert climate." International Herald Tribune
"Takes us into the heart of the ruling class of Saudi Arabia, and into the Bin Laden tribe....She fled the clan, fought to save her children, publicly condemned Osama, and criticized Saudi Arabia: that's a lot." Le Figaro
"Tells how she fell in love with the rich Saudi Arabian that she met in Geneva, and how, after the early days of happiness, she had to face the reality of life within a powerful Saudi family....Today she has chosen to tell the truth...For her it is the only way to fight against the terror." Paris Match
"Shady business dealings, power struggles between brothers, ties with the royal family...Carmen reveals the intimate secrets of the most powerful clan in Saudi Arabia." VSD
Book News Annotation:
A sister-in-law of Osama Bin Laden who fled her marriage in 1988, Carmen Bin Ladin describes what it was like to live in the gilded cage of her wealthy Saudi Arabian family. "It was only after September 11 that my 14-year fight for freedom from Saudi Arabia made sense to the people around me," she writes. "Before that, I think no one truly understood what was at stake--not the courts, not the judge, not even my friends. Even in my own country, Switzerland, I was perceived, more or less, as just another woman embroiled in a nasty international divorce. But...my fight went far deeper than that. I was fighting to gain freedom from one of the most powerful societies and families in the world--to salvage my daughters from a merciless culture that denied their most basic rights." Illustrated in b&w, the work has no subject index.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Osama Bin Laden's former sister-in-law provides a penetrating, unusually intimate look into Saudi society and the Bin Laden family's role within it, as well as the treatment of Saudi women. Her story takes us inside the Bin Laden family and one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressed kingdoms in the world.
About the Author
Carmen Bin Ladin lives in Switzerland with her three daughters.
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