“Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I found Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali a wildly uneven book, so my reaction falls between didn’t like (or, often hated) and it was OK. For me, effective memoirs are written by people with self insight and empathy, possibly leavened with humor. She’s writing about a difficult childhood and harsh reality for women abused in the name of Islam, so I’ll give her a pass that this book is humorless. But I find her lack of self-insight, her protestations of innocence in situations of obvious culpability, and her readiness to trot out other people’s horror stories in lieu of aforesaid self insight all pretty damning. The book is often poorly written with stunningly awkward transitions. Few if any other people stand out in the book because she is The Star. I found her disingenuous when claiming non-inflammatory intent when she over and over said incredibly outrageous things. This and other instances in the book led me not to believe her as a reliable narrator. Get thee to a therapist, I hope, to work out your childhood issues, especially with your father, and your inability to own your responsibility for your words and actions.

BUT, and it’s a huge BUT, she’s absolutely right that outrages against women and in general take place in the name of Allah, that this is sometimes (often?) ignored in the name of political correctness. She focuses more on this point at the end, so the book has a stronger finish that it does a beginning or middle.I found it unfortunate that she throws pretty much all of Islam under the bus in order to make this point. She makes an important argument, but one that is easier to dismiss because of the often offensive nonsense she surrounds it with.

This is a complicated book about complicated issues. It spurs me to find out more about Islam, but not by reading more of her writing.

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