Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui (true story)

"Since forever I have learned to say yes to everything.
Today I have decided to say no."

I saw this book in a store back in January and was intrigued ... who wouldn't be?  at least slightly??

I price checked the store copy to my Kindle and immediately put it on my wish list.  I downloaded it last week and read through it in a night.  It wasn't a "great" read, it certainly won't be found on everyone's must read list, but it left a lasting impression with me.

Nujood is 10, or at least, that is how old she figures she is.  She lives in a small village, many difficult miles outside the nearest city with her parents, her father's second wife, and many siblings.  Being so far away from conveniences (like hospitals), records of births and deaths were not kept, so Nujood's true age is really not known.  But like any child, she doesn't get caught up in the dealings of the "grown up" world and finds joy in the simple pleasures, like hide and seek with her younger siblings and special trips with her older sister.

The harsh reality of her family's customs soon make their way into Nujood's life.  Her brother, Fares, argues with her father and leaves home, only to be heard from again in Saudi Arabia.  Her sister Mona is suddenly married off while her family leaves their small village of Khardji and heads to the capital, Sana'a, leaving behind all their belongings.  Mona eventually returns to the family home and her husband unexpectedly runs off with Nujood's other sister, Jamila.

Soon, Nujood is the oldest eligible daughter in the home, and in order to reduce his "burdens", her father agrees to marry her to a man three times her age!  The husband has agreed he will not consummate the marriage until one year after Nujood's first period.

But the husband does not keep his promise and rapes the young girl the first night in her new home.

Nujood has been taught to do as she is told.  The word of her father and brothers - and now her husband - is as good as law, but she also knows that the nightly rapes and beatings are not right.  One day she sneaks away to the courthouse and finds a group of people willing to fight for her right to be a child.

Unfortunately, in some countries child marriages are not uncommon, in fact, they are the norm.  Nujood's courage to fight for her rights has exposed this practice in countries such as Afganistan, Egypt, India, Iran and Pakistan.  Because of her public struggle, laws have been rewritten and more are in the making to protect the rights of young girls.  Programs, like ENTELAK (organized by the Girls world Communication Center, GWCC), have been launched to help girls who have become the victims of early marriage to continue their education and to secure a good future.

The royalties from this book are helping to finance Nujood's family ... her continued education, clothing, food and rent.  Later the money will help Nujood pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer who will help other young girls.


  1. I've seen this book on a number of occasions but don't think I have it in me to read about child rape :(

  2. the act itself is only briefly mentioned. the majority of the book is about her family, their life style, their history, then the decision to marry, her trip to court, and her life after the divorce. all in all it's a quick and easy read - under 200 pages.

    I actually read reviews before purchasing (which I don't normally do) because I wasn't in the mind frame to hear the grizzly details, but I was interested in the story itself. then when I found out her family is using the royalties to improve their life, I jumped on it.

  3. Have you seen the film Water, by Deepa Mehta. It is a stunning film and addresses the issue of child marriage. Right now, there is a court battle in Canada over a polygamous sect in the middle of BC, where young girls are allegedly being married to older men. Sadly, child "marriage" (read exploitation and abuse) is not something that is just happening in another part of the world. It's happening closer to home than we realize.
    Great review on an important subject. - G

  4. no I haven't seen it, but I will be looking for it now. I didn't even think of the polygamous sects that encourage child marriage. I was focused more along the lines of "selling" off your children (in the disguise of marriage), but you are absolutely right. That hits us very close to home.

  5. "I am Nujood" opens with this extraordinary young woman on the steps of the courthouse, and I was surprised to tears of gratitude when the judges promise, immediately and without reservation, to do whatever they can in order to help her. From there, it is a long struggle to Nujood's freedom - both for her lawyer and judges, who must work through the various legal technicalities, and for the reader, who is introduced to the backstory of abuse behind all this - but the fact that the strangers around her care for Nujood, and work diligently, intelligently, and tirelessly to protect her, all this human goodness makes the ugly story of Nujood's abuse slightly more bearable, because the reader can hold on to the knowledge that, somehow, everything will be alright in the end.