"Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.--From publisher description."--From source other than the Library of Congress
This book is effective on so many levels. From the personal story of her life to an overall indictment of the worlds fastest growing religion. When Ali was a child of five, three adults held her down on a kitchen table, while a fourth mutilated her. " In Somalia, like many countries across Africa and the Middle East, little girls are made "pure" by having their genitals cut out. There is no other way to describe this procedure, which typically occurs around the age of five. After the child's clitoris and labia are carved out, scraped off, or, in more compassionate areas, merely cut or pricked, the whole area is often sewn up, so that a thick band of tissue forms a chastity belt made of the girl's own scarred flesh. A small hole is carefully situated to permit a thin flow of urine. Only great force can tear the scar tissue wider, for sex." Culturally relevant some will argue. That doesn't make it any less evil. Slavery was culturally relevant to our plantation owners in the south, that didn't make it anything less than evil. I'm pretty sure that Hitler and his pals would argue that gas chambers were culturally relevant to the Third Reich as well. Evil is simply that…evil. If its done in the name of religion, or a government.
Ali points out the fatal flaws of multiculturalism. Compassion for immigrants merely perpetuates the cruelty and ignorance. Islam has declared their Prophet to be infallible, and since no one is allowed to question this, it has become, as Ali says, a "static tyranny". At least during the time it took for this child to heal up, the almost daily abuse at the hands of her mother and grandmother abated. Can you imagine hogtying your child, placing them on their belly with their ankles and wrists tied together and then beating them with a stick? And then can you imagine this to be an acceptable, wide spread and common practice, to make sure that girls are, above all, obedient in all ways?
As you can imagine, Ms. Ali is not a terribly popular woman with believers in Islam. And, with the case of Salman Rushdie, the Danish comic strip artist whose name I can't seem to recall, Daniel Pipes, etc., she lives with armed guards. As Michelle Malkin says, "The Religion of Perpetual Outrage strikes again!"
In the meantime, in an effort to appear open and accepting, the West does such stupid things. We attack the religions our systems are historically based on while ignoring the evil wrought by Islam. Look around, tiny little examples exist everywhere, even something as simple as banning the wearing of Christian Chastity rings in one London school, while allowing Muslim headscarves on girls. (I suppose if we encouraged the wearers of the Chastity rings to have their genitals scraped off, it would be less offensive than their wish to wear a ring on their finger…) Oriana Fallaci said, before her death from cancer, "the hate for the West swells like a fire fed by the wind. The clash between us and them is not a military one. It is a cultural one, a religious one, and the worst is still to come." Ali takes this even further, she lived it, and now she warns us all. I just don't know if we have the courage to listen.
I believe the question for here is not, “Do you agree with her?” It’s, “Is Infidel worth reading?”
My take is this: fascinating life…so-so book.
My fundamental reaction to the book was one of disappointment. The back blurb reads: “Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar…as well as the development of her beliefs…Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter.” From this, I expected a book full of thoughtful discussion about the evolution of her philosophy. Unfortunately, the book is nothing of the kind.
I don’t think I’m over-simplifying excessively by saying that, on this matter, the book boils down to: she was raised a devout Muslim; horrible things were done to her with claimed justification by Islam; she reacted by deciding that she couldn’t believe in a religion that condoned those things. This is said wordily, but not with much more depth. The vast majority of the book is simply autobiography recounting her personal history.
What we have is an enormous amount of, “On this date, I did this. Then, on this date, this happened. Then I went here, but I had to leave and went there.” This is particularly true in the last portion of the book that deals with her life leading up to and following the making of “Submission.” Had there been a lot less of this, what thoughtfulness there was in the book would have been more powerful.
Had she focused less on Somali customs and turned her intellect on further discussion of religious freedom vs. social integration, on the fundamentalist approach to Islam vs. the more moderate, on how to accomplish her stated desire to see a religion that explicitly not able to change actually do so, this would have been a monumentally powerful book.
As it stands, you still will not go wrong by reading it. The sheer drama of her life will give you a peephole into a world that is likely unfamiliar, and a glimpse of a woman who, whatever her faults as a writer, has had a major impact upon Western interactions with Islam.
Ali was born in Somali. She was also a born refugee and spent most of her early life, bouncing from one African country to another. She describes her relationships with her family and what it means to be raised a Muslim. She is forced to have a female circumcision, (horrifying to read), at the tender age of five and is commanded into an arranged marriage in her late teens.
This eventually causes Ali to flee her homeland and begin to question her faith, which for me, becomes the most interesting portion of the book. She settles in Holland and begins changing her life; completing her higher education, turning into a political activist and politician, which unfortunately places a target on her back.
Ali is a gifted writer and tells a strong, compelling story.
Acting as a translator for Somali immigrants she saw how the religious oppression of women and children kept them in poverty. She saw immigrants who couldn't adjust to their new country and didn't even bother to learn Dutch, they continued to live as much as their could in the culture of the countries from which they fled and even resented their new countries. She theorized that this lack of acculturation was due to the submissive attitude decreed by their Muslim religion which resulted in a lack of initiative and curiosity. She thought that the propensity for violence found among the Muslim immigrants was also a result of their undiluted culture. Their adherence to clan affinity made them unable to work for improvement of any country, which she saw as the cause for the political upheaval and warfare in Africa.
When the Twin Towers were destroyed, she spoke out against Muslim violence and has needed to be surrounded by body guards ever since. Now living in the US she is employed by the conservative American Enterprise Institute where she continues to direct the attention of people world wide to the topic of her one guiding purpose: the promotion of freedom for women and children through the decrease of religious oppression.
This fascinating memoir recounts Ali's life story and her journey from a devout Muslim childhood to an adulthood as a controversial political leader in the Netherlands. Ali is unflinchingly candid about her childhood experiences as a refugee in Kenya, her family relationships, and her intense faith. As she approached adulthood she began to question the society in which she was raised, and the tenets of Muslim living, particularly the associated oppression of women. She risked all she held dear for her own independence.
The strength which enabled Ali to strike out on her own carried her from refugee centers to independent living and, eventually, to membership in the Dutch Parliament. She is an activist for women's rights, particularly in the Muslim community: I decided that if I were to become a member of the Dutch Parliament, it would become my holy mission to have these statistics registered. I wanted someone, somewhere, to take note every time a man in Holland murdered his child simply because she had a boyfriend. I wanted someone to register domestic violence by ethnic background ... and to investigate the number of excisions of little girls that took place every year on Dutch kitchen tables. ... The excuse that nobody knew would be removed. (p. 296)
Her candor has caused considerable controversy and sparked acts of extreme violence. She has remained strong through it all. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an amazing woman who is sure to have a continued impact on the world.
The most charitable hope that I have for this kind of book is that it resembles Frederick Douglas’ autobiography, which was also a book of political agitation. My ambivalence stems from the fact that Douglas was challenging a conventional view of inhumanity within his own culture while Ali is confirming one without.
This is the life story(so far)of Ayaan Hirsi. She is from Somalia originally, though she travels much as a child (Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya) and as an adult (Europe, USA).
Ayaan is the daughter of a strict Muslim family. She is burdened with many things as a child: the need to learn her family's heritage, the need to be a perfect daughter and a whipping post for the frustrations of the women, a third world existence, sudden poverty, fractured family, and lack of opportunity determined by her gender.
Her family was secure until her father was imprisoned by the government. He had a falling out with the dictator and Ayaan's world became filled with danger, uncertainty, and lack of food. She seems to have learned early that not everything she was told by her mother or grandmother was true. That set her on the path to questioning and thinking for herself. Quite dangerous traits given her setting.
The surprising thing was that although she lived under a male dominated society and religion, where women were property, it is the other women who were the most dangerous. As a child her mother and father did not want her to be circumcised, where the female genitals are hacked out, and then everything is sewn shut. During the family upheaval of her father's imprisonment, it is the grandmother who has it done to Ayaan. She does it to insure her granddaughter's purity and the family good name.
Throughout her time with her grandmother and mother, Ayaan is beaten, reviled and generally abused. Often in the name of learning to be proper, it is how the older women work out their personal demons and difficulties of trying to live under the cultural and religious limitations. At one point Ayaan's father, free at last, leaves the family and marries another woman and starts a second family. Ayaan bears the brunt of her mother's anger.
As a teen and a young adult, Ayaan can often do things she wants, as long as her mother thinks she is doing something else. Ayaan learns deception to keep her family happy and still meet her needs. She also tries to find a place in the world that works for her. She flirts with becoming strictly religious and with becoming a Nationalist. She has an illicit platonic romance with a non-Islamic young man. Then she has an secret marriage, arranged by an older female distant relative to a wayward son. He leaves her and she conceals the event from her immediate family. Her father, unaware of the previous marriage arranges for her to marry the son of a friend.
Ayaan is not interested in an arranged marriage and an arranged life. The man is from Canada and she would get to live in a modern world, but by archaic rules. It is this event that compels her to escape. She marries him, but on a trip to see him in Canada, she stops in Germany to see a relative. While there she gets on a train to the Netherlands and asks for asylum. The Netherlands have a very liberal policy for accepting refugees.
She is given a place to live, food, and provisional status while her case is investigated. She lies to the Dutch about her circumstances, and she changes her name to hide from her family. She learns their language and the rules of the game for asylum seekers. Much less complicated than the ones she had to play to survive with her family. Ayaan is granted asylum and then works with other refugees as a translator for the refugee center.
Ayaan builds a life for herself with friends and lovers. She struggles with education, though she is told she is not really suitable for college. She eventually comes to terms with her family and her groom. It is a great disgrace for her family that she has run off. They shun her for a while. She tries to help her sister who is not as good at finding a way to live as Ayaan has been. It eventually ends badly with her sister, who is not as strong as Ayaan.
Ayaan speaks publicly against the accommodation the Dutch have made with Islam. Many immigrants are coming into the country with the religion, and the Dutch allow them to run their own affairs with Islamic schools. Their sub-culture allows the brutality and repression of women, and their schools teach it as a proper way to live. Ayaan is often called out as an interpreter to deal with the violence, death and chaos of their lives. They are living by archaic rules with a cover of modernity in a modern society. They say what the Dutch want to hear, but then speak against the Dutch and their open society. Ayaan believes that the Dutch multi-cultural acceptance is allowing repression to flourish and damage lives.
Eventually Ayaan is elected to public office. She also receives death threats from Islamics. As part of her election she told that she had lied to receive asylum. After her election she is eventually forced to resign, and her citizenship is stripped from her. Her friend and filmmaker Theo van Gogh is murdered in the street by a Muslim who was enraged by a film he made with Ayaan about the repression of women.
Ayaan flees to the US where she is still living (at the time the book was published). She had her Dutch citizenship re-instated, but it is not safe for her to live there.
The book was well written and fascinating. Her life and travels are so absorbing that the book flies by. She seems to be a very strong woman who is trying to do what she thinks is right. She went from being a strong believer in Islam and god to someone who comes to see it as human manufactured cant to control and manipulate others. A power trip for those in charge. Her change is not just someone preaching her own new beliefs, but seen through the prism of her life, suffering and personal human experience.
A great read.
The story of the disintegration of the society in these war torn regions is also horrifying. But Ayaan is a woman of spirit, determination and one who works to find meaning in her circumstances. Finally she runs away to escape an arranged marriage and becomes a refugee in Holland. She manages to find work to support herself and get an education and she becomes a Dutch citizen. She is concerned about the way Muslims that come to Holland don’t try to blend with the existing culture but remain separate in order to preserve their way of life that keeps women from having any status or rights. She gets first hand information of the problems through her job as translator for these refugees. Eventually she becomes a member of the Dutch parliament to pursue her goals of obtaining rights for Muslim women in Holland. She had a great deal of success but became a target for Muslim terrorists and now lives in the United States under armed guard.
Many of the reviews I read while trying to put into words my feelings about this book complained that it was depressing and she complained a lot. It certainly was not a “happy” book and there is much to horrify a Western reader who takes her rights and freedom for granted. But it is extremely well written, making it a good read and Ayaan shows a great deal of forgiveness and compassion for her fellow Muslims who are behaving as they have been taught for generations since the Koran was written. Her goal is to try to help Muslims learn to accept the times we live in without leaving the faith—although as this book closes she had serious doubts about her faith.
Before I read this book I was naive about the Muslim faith. I assumed that the fundamentalists and terrorists were a small minority in this large group of people who consider themselves Muslim. When I read Reading Lolita in Tehran I was appalled by what was happening to some of the women as the Ayatollah started enforcing Muslim rules for women. But we were led to believe that this was not the way normally Muslims behave and at the time that book was written the transformation of Iran was just beginning so I did not get the full impact that Ayaan reveals. As I read Infidel I realized that in Africa and the Middle East this treatment of women is not an aberration but the norm. If noting else, this book can open our eyes to how a large segment of the world’s population is living by 3rd century standards, especially where women are concerned.
And a great writer: there are many remarkable things about Infidel but none more so than that it's written by a self-declared thick kid (methinks she doth protest too much) in a third (or even fourth) language. Yet is still as gripping and beautifully executed as many ghost-written memoirs. I picked this up on holiday when my wife finished it and was curiously flipping through the first few pages - it's not my kind of book, really - but was immediately drawn in, and raced through the rest of the book in less than a week. Along the way I learned a lot of recent African history and some good information on how Islamic societies are set up - perhaps based on a jaundiced view, given her conclusions, but still, I thought, a fairly and clearly represented one.
I have two remarks - not intended as criticisms, but rather as observations: First, to state the obvious, Ali has re-constructed her life story through the prism of, and with the benefit of, a subsequently gained appreciation of the Western enlightenment tradition. This perspective, when she navigated her childhood in Mogadishu, Mecca, and Nairobi was simply not available to her, on her own account. But it surely casts a different shadow; by dint of the hindsight it affords, Ali inevitably renders images and draws conclusions which differ from those she must have held at the time. I couldn't help feeling that the early history - perhaps while cataloguing dates and events accurately, must contain a large element of revision in its complexion. Only this can explain the apparent disconnect between her political thesis (that the principal victims of the Muslim socialisation are, principally, women) and her observation that the dominant female characters of her youth were the most unyielding enforcers of oppressive disciplines (including genital mutilation) and themselves remained sincerely and unresentfully devoted to principles Ali (subsequently) deemed beyond the pale. Ali doesn't seriously explore this anomaly, but I think it is in need of discussion for her case to be made out.
Secondly, and like most of the combatants in the jousts over religion that play in literary circles these days, she renounces Islam but not the religious disposition, which she takes up just as assiduously (as proselytes tend to) for the cause of atheism. So Islam isn't true; instead, she argues, libertarianism is. But this strikes me as a leap from the frying pan into the fire. Ali's faith in the enlightenment and dismissal of cultural relativism (which frequent readers may know I happen to quite like) - and its evil spawn, multiculturalism - strike me as glib, thinly argued and somewhat dogmatic in their bearing. Neither relativism not multiculturalism demands submission to foreign cultures for the sake of it, and if the social exclusion of muslim refugee communities that Ali describes in Holland is a result of truly multicultural policies, then they've been pretty poorly implemented. There may have been some rather feeble liberal hand-wringing going on, but I don't think that can be laid at Multiculturalism's door.
New York, where I gather she now lives, is a multicultural centre with the sort of robust disposition she clearly approves of. So is London. Perhaps it was her misfortune to land in Holland first.
These quibbles aside, this is a thoughtful and stimulating read.
The last leg of her journey puts her in the Netherlands, where she flees, taking a decisive step to break away from tradition and from an arranged marriage her family is trying to force her into. There, in a span of a mere decade, she goes through the stages of refugee, freelance translator, university student, and finally elected member of parliament, with the agenda of cultural integration of recent muslim immigrants into the liberal and open-minded Dutch society. There also, influenced by many factors, but not least of all the events of 9/11, she takes the final step from Islam to apostasy.
Moreover, she has turned into an outspoken critic of Islam and the culture associated with it, in part due to the abuses that it condones, that she endured earlier in her life, and that many women are still subject to today. You may have heard of the incident in the Netherlands, where a fundamentalist muslim murdered a Dutch film director, Theo van Gogh, for making a short 11 minute film that criticized Islam for the same reasons. The film is called Submission: Part I and was written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The murder of van Gogh, a friend as well as a colleague, was accompanied by numerous death threats, which force her to this day to live in an undisclosed location and be constantly surrounded by bodyguards.
I first ran into Ali as a guest on the Colbert Report, where she was promoting her book. I was struck by her composure and the clarity of her discourse. What attracted me to the book is her personal story of apostasy. After buying a copy, I couldn't put it down for two days, until I finished it. A fascinating book, with a compelling story and clear prose.
There are a few things that I learned from its pages. One of them is the degree to which female genital mutilation is taken in some African cultures (no the term female circumcision doesn't quite capture the procedure), all in the name of virginal purity. Another is the amount of bigotry that stems from the clan and tribal culture of some African ethnic groups, even among groups that speak the same language and have diverged only a dozen or so generations ago. I now find the ethnic cleansings that made infamous African civil wars less surprising.
But, more importantly, I learned what opened the window to free and critical thought in the mind of a child growing up in a dogmatic, superstitious and intolerant environment. It's quite simple: books and movies. When Ali lived in Kenya she and her siblings learned English while in elementary and secondary school. As a result, a whole world opened up to her. At first, it consisted of only trashy paperback novels and the likes of Nancy Drew mysteries, then also of some Hollywood productions that made their way to Kenyan cinemas. These were a window to a world where women were not forced to wear veils, to marry against their will, or to bury their dreams of a career. The knowledge of the existence of this other world is what told her that there was something to run away to, a better world. And it was more books that she came face to face with as a university student that eventually changed her outlook on government and religion.
I hope that the people who organize book donations to third world countries realize that it doesn't particularly matter what kind of books get donated. As long as they describe a world that's different from the one in which third world citizens live. This knowledge is what gives them a new choice for the direction their lives can take.
Not surprisingly, I highly recommend this book, to a wide audience.
Some reviewers have commented that the book is a memoir and focuses too much on Somali culture. However, the book is about how she came to her current beliefs about Islam and those cannot be understood with understanding not only her journey to this point but also the culture that informed that journey. We are a product of our upbringing and she brings light to her own journey and through that helps those of us who have no frame of reference. I found the book inspiring and thoughtful and it gave me a lot to think about.
One of the controversial aspects of this book is her strong (some people might say extreme) belief that the suppression/oppression of women comes directly from the central tenets of Islam. I can not address this aspect of the book, as my knowledge of Islam is quite limited. I am aware that many Muslims live fulfilling, happy and peaceful lives within their faith. I do believe that any religion can be used to abuse others when too rigidly interpreted. The book is well-written and honest, in the sense that Ali's strong beliefs are the result of her own experiences. I know this is a book I will revisit often.
If you actually want to know more about what the Koran says about women--or is interpreted to say, that is--far better, by a far more learned woman is: Iran Awakening by the Nobel prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi. Is she/was she ever a believer? You don't know and it doesn't matter because Iran's theocracy has forced her to study the Koran very closely. Other people have questioned parts of Ali's life story but I'm most skeptical that she ever spent much time studying Islam. Maybe her exposure consisted of rote memorizing in Arabic, a language she didn't know well ...
Hirsi Ali's autobiography is divided into two parts: "My Childhood," which covers her life with her family in Somali, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya (and runs from her childhood through her early twenties); and "My Freedom" which covers her life in Holland, after she ran away from an arranged marriage.
"My Childhood" is a rich portrait of Hirsi Ali's early life. It documents the culture clash with her grandmother (who had been raised as a nomad and unsuccessfully tried to instill nomadic values and skills in Ayaan); the family upheavals caused by her father's imprisonment; the way the Somali clan structure took care of the family during her father's many and prolonged absences, including his eventual abandonment of them; the conflict between her father's modern sensibilities and the sentiments of more traditional members of the family (her maternal grandmother and aunts performed genital excision on Ayaan and her sister against their parents' wishes); her mother's frustration with her own life, and her resultant abuse of Ayaan and her sister; Ayaan's observations on the differences between Somali, Saudi, Ethiopian, and Kenyan societies; Ayaan's teenage adoption of fundamentalist Islam; her religiously-forbidden romances with two young men (one a non-Somali, one a fundamentalist preacher); her (first, secret) arranged marriage to a cousin; her brushes with the Somali Civil war-- There is a lot of material in there. And while that list sounds as if the first half of the book should be utterly depressing, I didn't find it to be so.
The second section, in which she rejects her arranged husband and runs away while en route to join him in Canada, discusses her education in Dutch university, the development of her political sensibilities while working as a Somali-Dutch translator, becoming an atheist, and eventually being elected to Dutch Parliament on the personal platform of protecting immigrant Muslimah from familial and community violence. Her autobiography ends about a year after the murder of Theo Van Gogh, with the political maneuverings that revoked and re-instated Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship, and her decision to emigrate to the United States.
So she choose freedom. Then, working as a translator to put herself through school she'd work with and at police stations, hospitals, clinics, women's shelters, prisons, schools--and discover the disturbing reality that in the name of "Dutch Values" and "multiculturalism" Muslim women immigrants were being battered, even murdered in honor killings and "little children were [being] excised on kitchen tables" and it was being ignored and tolerated. By "excised" Hirsi means genital mutilation--which she had undergone herself as a young child. I'm tempted to explain exactly what that means--but Hirsi's description of what was done to her and others isn't for the faint of heart. I had a professor in college who called what was done to her "female circumcision" and a "rite of passage." (Village, please pick up your idiot at Fordham University). I'd love to send my old professor a copy of this book--with bookmarks and highlighted text. What Hirsi saw pushed her into speaking out, led to her becoming a member of the Dutch Parliament--and to threats on her life.
In her introduction, and in more detail later in the book, Hirsi described how in 2004 her friend Theo van Gogh was assassinated because of a short film he made with her, Submission, critical of Islam. A note was pinned to his chest saying Hirsi was next. A bit more than two months ago, another video critical of Islam, Innocence of Muslims, uploaded to YouTube was blamed for the assassination of America's ambassador to Libya and dozens of deaths. The director of the video, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, given he was on probation, was able to be arrested in America and charged with using a pseudonym to upload the video and "accessing the internet without authorization." A couple of weeks ago he was sentenced to prison--where he is now incarcerated. One might claim rules are rules, and he violated his probation. (Just as Hirsi in the wake of the van Gogh murder would find herself almost stripped of her Dutch citizenship using technicalities involving her application for refugee status.) Regardless of the dubious qualities of Nakoula's video, the parallels and chilling effects on speech of appeasing violence sure seem clear to me. Nor is that the only parallel out of current headlines I can find in Hirsi's story.
I should also warn Hirsi will prickle sensibilities on the left and right. She is upfront about her spiritual journey that has led her to become an atheist and many of her criticisms of Islam can be applied to Christianity--or any other faith. And though I find Hirsi's tone respectful to those of other views... Well, some on the religious right might be offended before they ever get to the body of the text given Christopher Hitchens' Foreword openly scornful of religion. And there's plenty in the main text to raise the hackles of the politically correct left in Hirsi's criticisms of multiculturalism. But Hirsi not only should be supported in her right to speak out, but deserves to be listened to. This book might not be "amazing" in the sense of depth of the ideas or undying prose (though it is fluid and lucid), but this is an amazing life story that often moved and outraged me, is eye-opening about Muslim society and the plight of women there, and deals with issues urgent and timely.
She has risked her life to give voice to all those women silenced by generations of duty to family, clan and Islam. Her personal questioning, learning and putting into action what she has come to know as truth is inspiring and doesn't just speak to the Muslim women's conflict, but to all women bound to a controlled and isolated existence. She talks how Muslims scream racism as a weapon to keep their women locked into a segregated and accepted life of submission, domination and abuse. Details on female circumcision and honor killings are quite horrifying, and Ayaan continues to speak out and bring to the forefront all of these things in hopes that change will happen. It's an upward battle I'm afraid, but she has dedicated her life to these causes. If nothing else, pick up this book (hardcover) and read starting at the top of page 272 through to the top of 273. It says it all.
I would love to hear her speak in person. I was honored to read her story.
Hirsi Ali's matter-of-fact writing style adds startling intensity to her descriptions of the atrocities committed against her and the women of her acquaintance, but also allows her discussions of her politicization later in the book to veer into the territory of humanist manifesto, which creates some discontinuity with the overarching premise that this is supposed to be an autobiography. I also found it a little difficult to believe that Ayaan was as entirely unaware of the controversy growing up around her for as long as she describes; she may have been incredibly naive, but she was also fairly active in public political discussions. These two aspects combined to make the end of the book rather less satisfying than Part I and the first half of Part II.
I can't shake the feeling that much of her motivation for writing this memoir has not been to chronicle the amazing life she has led, but rather to answer her critics. As I mentioned above, I do think this hobbles her narrative somewhat and keeps it from reaching its full potential, but not enough to prevent her story from being a worthy read nonetheless for anyone seeking to educate themselves on the role of women in Islam, or on the character of Ayaan herself.