By: Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: March 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 10, 2010
Nujood Ali was a young Yemeni girl growing up in a small village in the Yemen countryside. At just ten-years-old, her biggest worry was what toy she would play with. That all changed when a man approached her father. He was three times Nujood’s age and stated, “I would like our two families to be united.” With no money and too many mouths to feed, Aba, the girl’s father, was desperate and so agreed to the deal. The child’s dowry was set at 150,000 rials (about $750 dollars) and the day of the wedding arranged.
Nujood was too young to understand what would happen to her. She understood wedding ceremonies, but had no idea what a wedding night would entail. The groom had promised Nujood’s father that the girl would not be “touched” until she was older, but he failed to keep his promise. Nujood was viciously raped while her mother-in-law and other family members stayed in their rooms, ignoring the girl’s screams. Instead, they celebrated her “womanhood” the following morning, much to the girl’s horror.
I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced follows Nujood’s journey from innocent child, to child bride, and finally, to a young, bold girl who decides to break with tradition and seek a divorce. The young author recounts many details of her life, from the happy days spent with her brothers and sisters to the two harrowing months spent as the wife of “the monster,” her name for her husband. Nujood also provides a glimpse into the Yemen court system, and the kindly judges and court assistants who came to her aid. Of particular note in Nujood’s journey is Shada Nasser, a female attorney who helps the girl get her divorce.
Nujood shares a tribal proverb with her readers that will repulse many in the Western world, “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.” Nujood must battle that attitude along with the constant reminder that Sharaf, honor, comes before all other things, and that by divorcing her husband, Nujood will dishonor her family.
Written in the first person, I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced, is an engrossing read. It is hard to put down and at a 176 short pages, most people will probably read the book in one sitting. The author thankfully spares the reader an intimate look at her beatings and frequent sexual attacks at the hands of her husband. Such details are not necessary; it’s easy to feel the child’s despair as she’s thrown into a nightmare with no apparent escape. Nujood is actually amazingly upbeat about life, given all the obstacles she has had to overcome.
Quill says: An eye-opening look at the treatment of young girls in Yemen.