Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: I Am Nujood, Age 10 And Divorced – Nujood Ali & Delphine Minoui


I Am Nujood, Age 10 And Divorced – Nujood Ali & Delphine Minoui


Nujood Ali's childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With harrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband's hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom—an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married under the legal age. Nujood's courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has inspired other young girls in the Middle East to challenge their marriages. Hers is an unforgettable story of tragedy, triumph, and courage.


Review: This review is of the English translation of a French book.

This book was a complete impulse buy. One day, I was browsing the nonfiction at a used bookstore and came across a book cover with a photo of a little girl. The title said the girl was 10 and divorced. I had to know what the heck was going on. This is the clickbait of book covers.

Nujood Ali is born into a poor family in Yemen. Her parents can’t afford to feed all of their children, so when Nujood is 10, she’s “married” (married=sold) to a man in his 30s. Nujood is beaten and raped by her husband until she finds a way to escape and get to a courthouse. The judges and lawyers at the courthouse have never encountered a 10-year-old who wants a divorce, and they do everything they can to help her. Nujood makes international news as “the youngest divorcee in the world.”

This book is meant to raise awareness about underage marriage, especially in the Middle East. In countries all over the world, young girls are given to older men because of cultural traditions or poverty. Forcing a child to become a wife is psychologically damaging to the child, and many child brides commit suicide. Underage marriage has to be stopped because children need to be children. It’s not healthy to force them into adult roles. Nujood’s story is unusual because she was able to escape from her husband and get help, but she’s not the only child bride in the world. Underage marriage is surprisingly common.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced shows the best and worst of humanity. The men in Nujood’s life (including her father and brothers) treat her like property. Women don’t have many rights in Yemen, and children have even fewer rights. Nujood’s family is so poor that the children have to beg for money and food on the street. It’s not an easy existence.

“In Khardji, the village where I was born, women are not taught how to make choices.” - I Am Nujood, Age 10 And Divorced

When Nujood escapes from her husband and gets to the courthouse, things change. The people who work there are amazing. They take Nujood into their homes to keep her safe from her husband and father. Then they get her a divorce and make her story as public as possible so other child brides know that help is out there.

“My mind was made up: I’d do whatever I had to. I was ready to climb mountains to keep from finding myself lying on that mat again, night after night, all alone against that monster.” - I Am Nujood, Age 10 And Divorced

This book achieves its goal of raising awareness, but I have some issues with the writing. The story is aimed at Western middlegrade/young YA readers, and it feels kind of shallow. I don’t need graphic details about Nujood’s abusive marriage, but I would have liked more info about the legal system in Yemen. The author(s) were probably worried about boring their target audience, but I think the story is compelling enough that it could have included more details without losing its readers.

Also, I was slightly confused about whose story I was reading. The book is written in first-person from Nujood’s point-of-view. But, Nujood is a pre-literate 10-year-old. She only knows how to write her name. Obviously, she didn’t write this book. She worked with a French journalist cowriter, and sometimes the narrative seems like an adult trying to sound like a 10-year-old. Since I read a translation of the original book, it feels like there are a lot of layers of authors/translators between me and Nujood. I kept wondering if the adults were putting their words in Nujood’s mouth. This book would have been more comfortable to read if it was a piece of journalism instead of a first-person narrative. The target audience might not have liked that, though. Kids don’t usually read newspapers.

Obviously, I have some mixed feelings about this one. It’s a quick read that raises awareness about underage marriage, but I’m not a fan of the way it’s written. 




  

8 comments:

  1. Wow, this is such an interesting story! I would love to know more about this, but I think the writing would probably really bother me also. It's weird that it's written from her perspective but she doesn't actually write... Someone made a weird choice there. Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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    1. Yeah, I think the author was trying to make the book appeal to kids/teens, but as an adult, I didn’t appreciate the murky perspective.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. I've never heard of this book or Nujood's story!
    Of course I knew about girls sold into marriage, but I haven't read a personal account yet. The title would have gotten me to impulse-buy it as well.
    I understand your concerns about the writing. Because the story we see on the page is a few degrees removed from Nujood's actual words, especially after it's been translated into English from French from her native language.
    I'm curious to know what a teen or someone in the target audience would think of this book.

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    1. I also wonder what the target audience would think. Maybe they wouldn’t be bothered by all the layers of authors/translators.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  3. This is a powerful story, and aimed at an unexpected age group I think. I thought it would've been aimed at an older group. I've read a couple of mysteries that have been translated, and more often than not there are things that prevent me from completely engaging with the novel, so I understand there are things that wouldn't have worked for you.

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    1. I was also surprised that the book is aimed/marketed to young people. Nujood is 10 years old, so that probably has a lot to do with it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. This sounds so interesting but maybe like it missed the mark on how it was actually written. I agree the title is something that totally caught my attention and I would have picked up too.

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    1. Yeah, that title is totally the clickbait of book titles.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete

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