Author: Pao Alfonso


Published: 2006
A brilliant, captivating memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali recounting her traditional Muslim upbringing in Somalia, then Saudi Arabia, and Kenya. It recounts her intellectual awakening and self-emancipation and the cost of her life's advocacy. (SOME SPOILERS BELOW)

I found this book both hard to put down and hard to read because of the writer's story. I find Ayaan Hirsi Ali very brave to even write this memoir. I am unsure of how I feel about the part of her belief that Islam needs to be reformed because I am unfamiliar with the teachings and texts of the religion. But taking this book as a memoir and basing her arguments on all that she has witnessed and experienced living in different Muslim countries, I find her arguments compelling.

Her story offers a rare look into a window that isn't always open for us to peek into, as outsiders. Her writing is clear, concise and rational. Writing this book came at great personal cost to her, and I respect that a lot. There are many things about her life that one can consider a fortunate turn of events that helped her along her journey to her intellectual awakening--the fact that her father insisted on giving his daughters an education, that he was often away which meant he could not arrange her marriage early in life like what happened to her peers, that she was educated and found access to books, etc. Books became her window to a different culture, one where a woman isn't her father or husband's property, where she has the right to make her own decisions on her body and on other aspects of her life. These books planted seeds of hope and longing for a way to exist for herself instead of for others.

Her arguments against Islam's claim to be a religion of peace are passionate but very clearly laid out and supported by her own experiences and the histories of the countries that she called her home at some points in her life.

The courage to write this book and put her beliefs on paper in order to include the reformation of Islam in political debates is hard won. It must have taken great courage to put her religion, undoubtedly the cornerstone of her life, under scrutiny. It's an eye opening book, and it makes me think about the things that I take for granted in my daily life, living as a woman in my country where I can choose who (and if) I marry, have a career if I want to, go anywhere on my own and assert my right to my own body.

A very compelling read, no matter what your political and religious beliefs may be.

Opus 88 Fantasia Review

The last of the Opus 88 pens that I tried is the Fantasia. Read my reviews on the Picnic and Koloro. Everything Calligraphy sent a fine nibbed pen for me to try but I really liked how this pen looked so I asked for a medium nib for this one. It was delivered the next day after I requested it.

Like the Koloro, the Fantasia is a combination of acrylic and ebonite. I love the way it looks, especially the color bands on the ebonite cap. The color on Everything Calligraphy’s site is “brick red”, but on other sites it’s called brown or terracotta. Whatever it’s called, I really love this color. It’s like espresso. 🙂 Of course I inked it with something that complements the color–Montblanc Toffee Brown. Dark brown in some areas, a bit of orange in lighter strokes.

It has a smaller knob for the piston that locks the shutoff valve, so the top of the cap has this little screwdriver-like line you can use to turn it. Not really necessary, though, because I find it easy enough to turn the knob without this. It does make a pretty cool finial.

The cap can be screwed to the end of the barrel if you want to post it. I think it’s a tad too short if unposted, as you can see below.

The length of the pen when posted is about 5.7 inches. When unposted, it’s about 4 inches. The section is smaller and less comfortable compared to Picnic and Koloro. It’s not that it’s uncomfortable to hold, but the sections of Picnic and Koloro are longer and would be more comfortable especially for people with bigger hands.

Like the Picnic and Koloro, this comes with a glass pipette-thingamajig, which I find less convenient to use than a syringe.

I like the clip on this model. It’s just square and short and stumpy. It also slips through the pen loop easily, like the clips on the Picnic and Koloro. The clip is attached to the cap with a thin chrome-colored band, I’m happy that’s the only chrome-colored material on the pen’s build.

The nib is the same as the other two models and it’s a very smooth medium, steel nib. I quite enjoy writing with it. It has a smidge of feedback and it’s firm, not too springy. I think that the medium nib is a lot more pleasant to use than the fine nib, but of course I’ve always enjoyed medium nibs more. Here is a writing sample. The ink color is a perfect match. <3

I picked this pen over the Picnic and Koloro because I think the size is so cute, and it looks different from all my other pens. The striped cap, the color accents, the combination of materials, these are unique to it. I don’t consider myself a pen collector by any stretch, but this one’s a great addition to my daily carry. It is a smooth writer and (being an eyedropper), it carries a lot of ink. Some people might not like the fact that you need to screw the cap to post it, but I don’t really mind at all. Would I recommend it? Definitely.

Opus 88 Koloro Review

Last week I tried three different kinds of Opus 88 pens. Here’s the review I wrote for the Opus 88 Picnic. Today I’m going to write a short review for the Koloro. The Koloro and the Fantasia both use acrylic and ebonite in their design. I understand that some people don’t like the combination, but I find the textural variation to be very pleasant. I like the way that it looks. Like the Picnic and Fantasia, the Koloro’s acrylic is pretty thick and nicely polished. It doesn’t feel too plasticky or thin.

I like the shape of the pen, it’s sort of flat at the ends, but has a little point or flair to it so that it’s not completely flat. The barrel and the cap has a slight swell to them. The length of the pen is about 5.5 inches capped and almost 5 inches uncapped. It has chrome trims, very simple and unassuming.

The clip is the same as the Picnic’s. It snaps right through and pulls off a pen loop without any problems. The translucent strip of acrylic on the cap shows a silhouette of the nib.

The section is long and has a bit of flair at the end, just like the Picnic. It’s so comfortable to hold. The weight is pleasant too, especially when inked. It’s not too light, considering the materials used for it.

I enjoyed trying out both the Picnic and Koloro because the section is so comfortable. If you have large hands, you probably won’t have a hard time holding it.

The Koloro also uses a shutoff valve that can be adjusted through a piston mechanism at the end of the barrel. It reduces the likelihood of leaking and burping while in transit.

The end of the barrel is made of ebonite. Just twist it a bit (about a turn and a half) to release the ink into the feed. Twist it back to depress the rubber gasket and seal off the feed again.

The nib of the unit that I tried is Fine, which feels like a European XF for me. It’s firm and smooth, with a little bit of feedback.

I would put the flow at a little bit dry to moderate. If you enjoy wet nibs like I do, I recommend either using a wet ink (like I did in this writing sample) or tune the nib to write a bit wetter. The pen writes well, though, the steel nib is reliable and pleasant to use.

Overall, it’s a nice pen. I like the design and the interesting textures of acrylic and ebonite. I like that it writes well and is pleasant and comfortable in the hand. Thanks to the wonderful people at Everything Calligraphy for letting me try it out.

Opus 88 Picnic Review

L-R: Opus 88 Picnic, Fantasia, Koloro

Last week I was able to try three different kinds of Opus 88 pens.These are all steel-nibbed pens, so the nibs write the same, more or less. They’re all eyedropper pens too, which means that you transfer ink into the barrel instead of through converter, piston, or cartridge. Since I have eyedroppered many pens before, I went right to eyedroppering it and testing the pen. After two pages, it stopped writing. Hence, the importance of reading instructions. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Opus 88 Picnic comes in a grey box with a white sleeve. The box is very minimalist. Not too many bells and whistles here.

Open the box and viola! A pipette-looking thing thing and the beautiful, translucent blue pen. There’s also that little piece of booklet that I should have read first before using the pen.

The first impression I had on the pen is that it’s shaped nicely, and the acrylic is pretty nice too. It doesn’t feel thin and cheap. I also wondered what that little mechanism you see through the acrylic could be, but since I didn’t read the little booklet, I just went ahead and disassembled the pen parts before I inked it.

The pen’s length when capped is about 5.6 inches capped and 5 inches uncapped. It has chrome-colored trims on both ends of the barrel and a chrome-colored clip.

The clip has little ridges around it, and it’s a bit curvy. It’s tight but it’s very usable. Slips right through my pen loops and pockets without a problem.

The section is long and comfortable to hold. I liked it right away, and for a person with a medium-sized hand, the girth makes it very comfortable to hold. The section has a slight flare towards the end, near the nib. You can post the pen if you like, but I’m not sure how the acrylic will hold up to that. I prefer to use my pens unposted.

Here’s the inside of the barrel and the section. If I had read the booklet first, I would have learned that the pen has a locking mechanism for the ink. This right here acts like a stopper that pushes itself into the section and locks the ink out. This is to prevent ink burping when you’re in transit. Eyedropper pens carry a larger amount of ink in the barrel, but they’re also a bit prone to burping (bless you), especially if you’re traveling by air.

I inked this one with Colorverse Strelka, because…blue.

I didn’t like the pipette much because it only sucks up about a bit of ink at a time, and some ink stays in it after you squeeze it out. I think a more economical and faster way to fill up an eyedropper is through a syringe. Lesser ink wastage, faster filling. No muss, no fuss. That being said, of course it’s nice of them to include this in the package, for people who don’t yet have syringes.

The steel nib actually wrote pretty well. It’s a fine nib but it feels more like an xf to me. There’s a bit of feedback, and the nib is firm, without much bounce. It wrote consistently, then after about two pages, it stopped writing. After a few minutes of shaking, trying to coax out the ink, I finally read the little booklet and lo and behold, I missed that important instruction of releasing a bit of the piston mechanism at the end of the barrel.

I twisted it just a smidge (not like the one in the photo below, lol). I just turned it about a turn and a half.

Ah, that did the trick. You can actually just leave the pen un-twisted if you prefer it that way, and just close it off when you’re going to be traveling. I thought it’s such a clever touch to add to an eyedropper pen. I also wonder if it’s going to prevent burping 100%, I’ll need to test it longer to find out.

Overall, I think the Opus 88 Picnic is a pretty pen, it writes well enough for a steel nib, and has an interesting take on an eyedropper system. It’s super comfortable to hold and light enough not to tire out the hand for long writing sessions.

All the Opus 88 pens I tried were from Everything Calligraphy.