Book review: I Am Nujood, Aged 10, Divorced.
I don’t know where or how I bought this book. Perhaps, having read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s account of growing up in Somalia, I was attracted by the title, wondering what life was like for other women in the middle-eastern world. At any rate, the title certainly gets your attention. Since Nujood is only 10 years old, the book is co-authored (or should I say ghost written?) by French journalist Delphine Minoui.
In a nutshell, Nujood grows up in rural Yemen: I confess I had to look it up on a map to discover that it is the country south of Saudi Arabia. If you wanted to go from the Indian Ocean up the red sea to the Suez canal, to the Mediterranean, Yemen would be the first country you passed on your right hand side. Although the legal age of marriage in Yemen is fifteen, her father marries her off at the age of ten. His reasons? That two of her sisters have been kidnapped and that, the family being poor, the marriage of Nujood will mean one les mouth to feed. The husband is about thirty, and takes her virginity on their wedding night, despite having promised to wait until she reached puberty.
The book touches, perhaps unconsciously, on themes that Hirsi Ali deals with, in particular, the way women are taught to be submissive:
“In Khardji, the village where I was born, women are not taught how to make choices.” (p.23)
“Since forever,” writes Nujood, “I have learned to say yes to everything.” (p.18)
After a trip back to her family, she tries to get help from her immediate family, but no one has any advice except her father’s second wife, Dowla, who lives separately to the rest of the family, and who first suggests that she go to court, seek a divorce, and gives her some money to help with the trip. In the court room, after she had told her story to a judge, she attracts the attention of a prominent female lawyer, Shada Nasser.
So what has become of Nujood now? She states: “ I recently left my uncle’s house and returned to live with my parents, because in my country, there are no shelters for girls who are the victims of family violence.” (p.130). The royalties from the book will pay for an education, but Nujood is currently only in second grade. Journalists still come to visit her, and her brother doesn’t like the “shame” all the publicity has brought on the family. I wonder where she’ll be in five years time.
It’s a well written book, and gives an insight into a life most of in the west have no idea about.