I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Title: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
Author: Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui (Translated by Linda Coverdale)
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Publisher: Three Rivers Press, 2009
Source: Gift from my mom

This is the story of Nujood (and every time my husband saw me with the book, he would yell out, "I AM NUJOOD!"), a little girl married to an older man when she was 10 in order to pay some family debts. Although the man promised her father he wouldn't touch her until she reached puberty, Nujood was soon subjected to a life of physical and sexual abuse. Instead of silently giving in, she ran away to the courthouse and requested a divorce. Her story has given other young girls the inspiration and courage to request divorces of their own.

This was a quick little read - I finished it in two workout sessions. Nujood's voice is innocent and straightforward. She gives the facts about her life with simplicity and directness. After telling the story of her divorce, she explains a few other situations in her family that exhibit the desperation and inequality in Yemen. She also describes some of the uncertainty in her own life. While she managed to escape from her husband (you can't call that a spoiler when you take the title into account), she still lives with the family that essentially sold her to the husband in the first place. They still struggle to make enough money to live from day to day.

One thing that I thought was unique and refreshing about Nujood's viewpoint is that she doesn't resent her religion for the abuse she endured. She retains her faith in Islam - it is the system she has found fault with. Although she says she hopes in the future to be like the female lawyer who takes her case - "Like Shada, I will wear high heels, and I will not cover my face" - she also loves to study the Koran and never once blames her struggles on her religion. I think this is an important distinction to make - often it is the culture that results in the abuse of women and other activities we frown upon in western society, not the teachings of the religion itself. I am by no means an expert on Islam, so I can't really say more than that. But I appreciate Nujood's viewpoint and lack of resentment.

Overall, this is an interesting story and one that deserves to be heard. Often, we hear about situations in the Middle East through the media and politicians. Hearing it through the voice of a little girl who rose above her circumstances and fought for improvement was refreshing and at times moving. It is a simple story, but an empowering one.

Overall: 3.5


  1. I hope to read this one in the near future.

    My sister lived in Yemen for a year and she told me that stories like this one, where families sell off younger children, are both uncommon compared to the majority and looked upon as shameful. The religion certainly doesn't condone this behavior. I'm no expert in Islam either, but I do know that much of what we hear about it in the US isn't about Islam itself but various political parties' interpretations and mandates (which often only benefit themselves, twisting ideas to their own gain).

  2. This sounds really good. That's a tough life, but she sounds like an amazing girl.

  3. I enjoyed this one, too. And, I agree with Amanda, we tend to get a very one-sided version of Islam here in the US. The stories we hear are often cultural, not religious and vary greatly from country to country and urban to rural/uneducated.

  4. Great review! I'd heard about young girls in the region requesting divorces, but I can't wait to read a firsthand account. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention.

  5. I really appreciate Amanda's comment above, because a lot of times a novel presents one way of looking at a snapshot within a culture, and is often mistaken for an absolute identity for a whole group of people. The fact that the novel provided courage for other girls in her position is reason enough to call it success. How did you hear about this title/ what made you select it?


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