Synopses & Reviews
One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.
Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.
Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.
"A brave and elegant figure...an honest woman...No one who reads her [memoirs] will doubt the self-questioning and the rigorous honesty of her mind. Perhaps, as in Voltaire's short story 'L'IngÉnu,' it is that too much honesty is sometimes unpalatable, even if it is couched in civil terms...She has an open mind that has released itself from the old straitjacketed frame of reference of Right and Left, she is instinctively, deeply antiauthoritarian and she is unlikely to stick to straight ideological lines. She will go on asking difficult questions."
-- Isabella Thomas, The Observer
"Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of Europe's most controversial political figures and a target for terrorists. A notably enigmatic personality whose fierce criticisms of Islam have made her a darling of...conservatives...and...popular with leftists...Soft-spoken but passionate."
-- The Boston Globe
"A charismatic figure...of arresting and hypnotizing beauty...[who writes] with quite astonishing humor and restraint."
-- Christopher Hitchens
"Too potent a social critic to be tolerated any longer [in her home country]...an unflinching advocate of women's rights and an unflinching critic of Islamic extremism."
-- The New York Times
A "fast-paced and engrossing new memoir of political awakening...Ghonims memoir is a welcome and cleareyed addition to a growing list of volumes that have aimed (but often failed) to meaningfully analyze social medias impact. Its a book about social media for people who dont think they care about social media. It will also serve as a touchstone for future testimonials about a strengthening borderless digital movement that is set to continually disrupt powerful institutions, be they corporate enterprises or political regimes…Ghonims writing voice is spare and measured, and marked by the same earnest humility he has displayed in media appearances…His individual story resonates on two levels: it epitomizes the coming-of-age of a young Middle Eastern generation that has grown up in the digital era, as well as the transformation of an apolitical man from comfortable executive to prominent activist." -- The New York Times Book Review "A remarkable personal testament that will be cited by future historians of both Facebook and the Arab Spring." -- Kirkus "Ghonim...brings his broad international perspective and knowledge of technology to this fascinating look at the new face of revolution." -- Booklist "Revolution 2.0...is likely to be required reading for web geeks, media experts, political scientists, advertising executives, activists, anarchists, confidence men, secret policemen, dictators and corporate strategists." -- The Telegraph (UK) "An articulate account of the author's middle-class upbringing under a draconian regime, and a gripping chronicle of how a fear-frozen society finally topples its oppressors with the help of social media...That the translation reads so smoothly in English is a linguistic feat...It helps that Ghonim is a methodical thinker whose plain and logical approach evokes a thoughtful rather than radical response. He deftly renders the details of his conversations with interrogators and willingly describes personal scenes...A final suspenseful chronicle of how government officials attempted to brainwash and dupe him after his release from prison will be eye-opening for anyone who wonders about the distorted mind-set of Egypt's leaders....It's not surprising that Ghonim's commitment to the cause affected his relationship with his wife and children; it reminds one of our own historical revolutionaries - John and Abigail Adams come to mind - who required a certain obsessive determination that may seem irresponsible to those who live in a democracy." -- The San Francisco Chronicle "Ghonim doesn't overreach in this deeply personal account. His words ring with an authentic tone...Ghonim avoids sweeping generalizations during those heady and tumultuous days." -- The Los Angeles Times "A fascinating book...There is an energy in the book and in Ghonim's words that makes one feel it is much too soon to assume the revolution is over, or to underestimate what the rebels achieved." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer "Deserve[s] to become part of the canon of classic prison literature" -- The Washington Post "Revolution 2.0 excels in chronicling the roiling tension in the months before the uprising, the careful organization required and the momentum it unleashed. Ghonim … present[s] a manifesto on the capacity of social media to transform a society…Its approach — inherently plural, modern and pragmatic — augurs well for a society on the brink of an uncertain future." --NPR.org "There's no doubting that his tell-it-like-it-is memoir will be studied by historians for generations to come." -- Bloomberg
Ayaan Hirsi Ali captured the world's attention with Infidel
, her coming-of-age memoir, which spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of today's most admired and controversial political figures. She burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened she would be next; and she made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and forced to resign from the Dutch Parliament.
Infidel shows the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished--and sometimes reviled--political superstar and champion of free speech--the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female circumcision, brutal beatings, an adolescence as a devout believer, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four countries under dictatorships. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam, earning her the enmity of reactionary Islamists and craven politicians.
When it was first published in India, ninety-four-year-old Kondapalli Koteswarammas autobiography was acclaimed by the Telugu literary world. Koteswaramma is well known as the widow of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, founder of the Maoist movement in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and her life spans a tumultuous century of Indian politics that included the Independence movement, Communist insurrection, and the militant leftist Naxalite movement. A child widow at the age of five, she went on to marry Seetharamaiah and work for the Communist Party of India. She was later forced to live underground with her family in the difficult years of the late 1940s. Then Seetharamaiah deserted her and everything changed. Painfully, Koteswaramma worked to rebuild her life, only to face tragedy again when both of her children died as young adults. When many others would have given up, Koteswaramma responded by enrolling in school, taking a job, raising her grandchildren, writing poetry and prose, and eventually establishing herself as a thinking person in her own right.
Now in English, The Sharp Knife of Memory is a searing memoir that will resonate worldwide as it explores the nature of memory and gives a firsthand account of the arrival of womens political independence in India. That Indian women often face incredible suffering is known, but that they can fight back and emerge winners is exemplified in the life of Koteswaramma.
A narrative of the revolution in Egypt, followed by lessons that can be applied to any revolution, anywhere.
The revolutions that swept the Middle East in 2011 surprised and captivated the world. Brutal regimes that had been in power for decades were overturned by an irrepressible mass of freedom seekers. Now, one of the figures who emerged during the Egyptian uprising tells the riveting inside story of what happened and shares the keys to unleashing the power of crowds.
Wael Ghonim was a little-known, thirty-year-old Google executive in the summer of 2010 when he anonymously launched a Facebook page to protest the death of one Egyptian man at the hands of security forces. The pages following expanded quickly and moved from online protests to a nonconfrontational movement.
The youth of Egypt made history: they used social media to schedule a revolution. The call went out to more than a million Egyptians online, and on January 25, 2011, Cairos Tahrir Square resounded with calls for change. Yet just as the revolution began in earnest, Ghonim was captured and held for twelve days of brutal interrogation. After he was released, he gave a tearful speech on national television, and the protests grew more intense. Four days later, the president of Egypt was gone.
The lessons Ghonim draws will inspire each of us. He saw the road to Tahrir Square built not by any one person, but by the people. In Revolution 2.0, we can all be heroes.
About the Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, was raised Muslim, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa and Saudi Arabia. In 1992, Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands as a refugee. She earned her college degree in political science and worked for the Dutch Labor party. She denounced Islam after the September 11 terrorist attacks and now serves as a Dutch parliamentarian, fighting for the rights of Muslim women in Europe, the enlightenment of Islam, and security in the West.
Table of Contents
Part I: My Childhood
Chapter 1: Bloodlines
Chapter 2: Under the Talal Tree
Chapter 3: Playing Tag in Allah's Palace
Chapter 4: Weeping Orphans and Widowed Wives
Chapter 5: Secret Rendezvous, Sex, and the Scent of Sukumawik
Chapter 6: Doubt and Defiance
Chapter 7: Disillusion and Deceit
Chapter 8: Refugees
Chapter 9: Abeh
Part II: My Freedom
Chapter 10: Running Away
Chapter 11: A Trial by the Elders
Chapter 12: Haweya
Chapter 13: Leiden
Chapter 14: Leaving God
Chapter 15: Threats
Chapter 16: Politics
Chapter 17: The Murder of Theo
Epilogue: The Letter of the Law
Reading Group Guide
1. Hirsi Ali tells us that this book is "the story of what I have experienced, what I have seen, and why I think the way I do" (page xii). Which experiences does she highlight as being integral to forming her current views on Islam?
2. "No eyes silently accused me of being a whore. No lecherous men called me to bed with them. No Brotherhood members threatened me with hellfire. I felt safe; I could follow my curiosity" (page 185). This passage refers to Hirsi Ali's initial impression of walking the streets in Germany. What other significant differences between the West and Islamic Africa did she observe during her first days in Europe? Upon arriving in Holland, what were her initial impressions of the Dutch people and the Dutch government? Did these change significantly as she lived there
3. How did Hirsi Ali's immigration experience and integration into Dutch society differ from those of other Somalians?
4. Discuss the differences that Hirsi Ali noticed between raising children in Muslim countries and raising children in the West. In particular, what did she notice about Johanna's parenting? How were Muslim parents different from Dutch parents in their instructions to their children on the playground? (see page 245).
5. In Hirsi Ali's words, "a Muslim girl does not make her own decisions or seek control. She is trained to be docile. If you are a Muslim girl, you disappear, until there is almost no you inside you" (page 94). How do the three generations of women in Hirsi Ali's family differ in their willingness to "submit" to this doctrine?
6. As seen through Hirsi Ali's eyes, what factors contributed to Haweya's death? How might members of her family describe events differently?
7. Although Hirsi Ali mostly refrains from criticizing her father, she publishes the personal letter he wrote her upon her divorce. Why do you think she included this letter? Were you surprised by any other intimate details of her life that she revealed in the book?
8. The events of September 11th caused Hirsi Ali to reread sections of the Quran and to evaluate the role of violence in Islam. Consequently, her interpretation of September 11th differs from those around her. What doe she conclude? Do you agree with her analysis?
9. On page 295, Hirsi Ali lists the three goals she wished to accomplish by joining Parliament. By the book's end has she accomplished all three? How did her views of the Dutch government change over time?
10. Examine Hirsi Ali's relationship with her brother. How did Mahad's and Abeh's reactions to her political work differ?
11. Throughout her political career, Hirsi Ali has made several bold statements challenging the Muslim world. In your opinion, were these declarations worth the risk?
12. Has this book changed the way you view Islam? According to Hirsi Ali, is Islam compatible with Western values and culture? Do you agree with her?
Enhancing Your Book Club
1. Visit the website for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Washington D.C. think tank that Hirsi Ali joined upon leaving Holland. Take a look at the articles that Hirsi Ali has posted, and bring one to share. The website is located at www.aei.org.
2. Go to www.youtube.com to watch a version of Theo van Gogh and Hirsi Ali's film, Submission: Part One.
3. Research the Quran before your group meeting and choose a passage to examine together.
4. Take a look on the web for Hirsi Ali's most recent statements about freedom of speech, women's rights, or religion in schools. (For example, in April 2006 she publicly stated her support of the Danish cartoonists' rights to publish images of Muhammad.) Bring in a copy of any interviews you find and share with your group.