The concept of marrying for love is new in the course of human history. Throughout most of our time on Earth (and still in some parts of the world), marriage is a business arrangement. A woman is sold or given to her husband as though she is an animal or an inanimate object.
The memoir, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: A Memoir was published in 2010. In 2008, Nujood Ali was a young girl living with her family in Yemen. Married off to a man decades older than her, Ms. Ali told her her story with the help of journalist Delphine Minoui. Used as a servant by her new family and abused by her husband, she knew that she had no choice but to run away. Arriving at the local courthouse, she asked for a divorce.
In the west, we like to think that marriage is between two consenting adults that are ready, willing, and able to make what will hopefully be a lifetime commitment. But marriage is other part of the world is seen differently. Child marriage is is more common than we think it is. I loved this book. Ms. Ali not only broke barriers in her home country, she inspired millions of women across the world to do the same.
I don’t know about anyone else, but as the descendant of immigrants, there is a part of me that longs to know about the world my family knew before they came to the United States. But with no one alive to share those stories and that world long gone, it can be seen through documents and the work of fiction.
French-Iranian journalist Delphine Minoui does not need to jump through such hoops. The only thing she needs to do is buy a plane ticket.
Translated by Emma Ramadan, the book is a memoir of the ten years that she lived in Iran. In the late 1990s, she was in her twenties and brand new to the world of journalism. She was also mourning for her recently passed grandfather. Her stay in Tehran was supposed to be a short ten-day trip. It eventually turned into a decade long residency.
During the course of that decade, Minoui doesn’t just live in Tehran. As her journalistic instincts kick in, she experiences everything the city and the country offer at that time. By the time she leaves Iran, she has grown in ways she could not have imagined
I really liked this book. It shows that Iran is much more than it is perceived to be in the headlines. Which frankly, sometimes don’t tell the whole story. Each chapter is a letter to her grandfather, describing in vivid detail what day to day life was like for Minoui.
Books are more than words on a page. They can educate, inspire, and provide hope in a time when all seems lost.
The Syrian Civil War will be a decade old next year. As of 2015, 3.8 million Syrians found refuge outside of their home country. 380,000 souls have been lost since 2011. Once thriving cities and towns have been destroyed beyond recognition. And yet, those who stayed found light and life via books.
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War was published last month. Written by Delphine Minoui and translated by Lara Vergnaud, the book follows the conversations Minoui had with a group of resistance fighters who kept a secret library in Daraya during the war. As government forces pounded the city, these young men came upon a small library. Within a month, they created a sanctuary that contained 15,000 books. Containing literature of every genre and subject, they found a brief respite from the destruction that was their new normal. Speaking to journalist Delphine Minoui via social media, they told the story of survival, hope, and faith.
I found the concept to be compelling. Beyond my love of books, I was drawn to the idea that the medium is able to give us something to hold onto when all seems lost. The problem is that the story does not live up to the hype it creates.