Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Essays on Women and Islam #WITMonth

Book review: The Caged Virgin, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Amazon / Book Depository) Any Muslim who asks critical questions about Islam is immediately branded a “deserter.” A Muslim who advocates the exploration of sources for morality, in addition to those of the Prophet Muhammad, will be threatened with death, and a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore. I hope to … Continue reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Essays on Women and Islam #WITMonth

The View From Tehran

Book review: I’m Writing You From Tehran, by Delphine Minoui (Amazon / Book Depository) The taxi rolls along gray lines. That’s all we can make out in the darkness: gray lines, as far as the eye can see, marking out the road to the airport. Outside, beyond the window, the night devours the last forbidden words I heard. How many will still dare to shout … Continue reading The View From Tehran

Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

Book review: The Brothers, by Masha Gessen (Amazon / Book Depository) This American Life is one of my all-time favorite radio shows. But since they’re so prolific and have been around for so long, I’m always eons behind on episodes, so I tend to skip through the archives looking for something interesting. That’s how I landed on a 2014 episode, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” about an incident I’d … Continue reading Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

The Rain Began with a Single Drop

Book review: Daring to Drive, by Manal al-Sharif Book Depository It is an amazing contradiction: a society that frowns on a woman going out without a man; that forces you to use separate entrances for universities, banks, restaurants, and mosques; that divides restaurants with partitions so that unrelated males and females cannot sit together; that same society expects you to get into a car with … Continue reading The Rain Began with a Single Drop

Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization

Book review: Two Sisters, by Asne Seierstad Amazon One October day in 2013, Somali-born Norwegian sisters Ayan and Leila (pseudonyms) left a note explaining their intentions, then boarded a flight from Oslo, beginning a journey that led them to a border town in southern Turkey. From there, they crossed into Syria, choosing to live in terrorist-controlled Raqqa, marry IS fighters and have babies, and embrace … Continue reading Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization

Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

Book review: I Was Told to Come Alone, by Souad Mekhennet (Amazon / Book Depository) Sometimes a reporter is simply lucky enough to pick the right restaurant for tea. That’s one way journalist Souad Mekhennet, a contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, and a veritable force in modern journalism, describes her experience in 2001, listening in on conversations of the regulars in a Muslim neighborhood … Continue reading Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

Dispatches from an Occupied Land

Book review: The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State, by Samer, translated by Nader Ibrahim Samer (not his real name) is a Syrian hoping to begin his studies when Assad’s regime is overthrown and the Islamic State (referred to here as Daesh, another of its names) rolls into the country, taking Raqqa as a de facto capital. The citizens have a brief glimmer of hope that things … Continue reading Dispatches from an Occupied Land

When Blasphemy, Heresy and Apostasy are Necessary

Book review: Heretic, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Amazon / Book Depository) On ______, a group of ______ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a ______ in ______, opening fire and killing a total of ______ people. The attackers were filmed shouting “Allahu akbar!” Speaking at a press conference, President ______ said: “We condemn this criminal act by extremists. Their attempt to justify their violent acts in the … Continue reading When Blasphemy, Heresy and Apostasy are Necessary

Iran’s Culinary Culture and the Appeal of the Temporary Marriage

Book review: The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran (Amazon / Book Depository) Published in 2014 in the UK, Australian, and New Zealand markets, Jennifer Klinec’s Iranian food and romance memoir The Temporary Bride will be published on Valentine’s Day in the U.S. Klinec abandons a financially secure career in London to open a cooking school out of her apartment. In search of new recipes, … Continue reading Iran’s Culinary Culture and the Appeal of the Temporary Marriage

Across Land and Sea, a Teenage Refugee and Her Flight from Syria

Book review: Nujeen, by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb (Amazon / Book Depository) I fell in love with Nujeen Mustafa, like many did, when Last Week Tonight host John Oliver used BBC interview clips of the teenage Syrian refugee at a way station on the Serbian-Hungarian border as she traveled to Germany with her sister. She was so sweet and optimistic despite her unimaginably difficult journey and experiences in the … Continue reading Across Land and Sea, a Teenage Refugee and Her Flight from Syria

Fight like a girl

Book review: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (Amazon / Book Depository) “We all have to work very hard and ignore those people who say we should not be here.” So says a female Afghani politician, one of the subjects of Jenny Nordberg’s eye-opening narrative nonfiction account of the practice of bacha posh in Afghanistan, The Underground Girls of Kabul. The quoted politician, Azita, is the … Continue reading Fight like a girl

Out of ISIS

Book review: The Girl Who Beat Isis, by Farida Khalaf with Andrea C. Hoffmann (Amazon / Book Depository) New English translation of the memoir of a young Yazidi girl’s experiences in ISIS captivity. It’s horrifying stuff, but she turns out to be more of a fighter than any of the ISIS soldiers she encounters. I was so sad that a recurring thought she had was of … Continue reading Out of ISIS