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.