There is even a tribal proverb that says, “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.”
(Ali, Nujood; Minoui, Delphine (2010-02-23). I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (p. 74). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition)
At nine years old, Nujood Ali was married to a man four times her age. This was not illegal in Yemen. Indeed, Nujood's father arranged the marriage. The details were ironed out by various men in the two families, and Nujood's fiancee agreed not to have sex with Nujood until she at least reached puberty.
He raped her the first night they were married.
"I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" tells you the most important detail of the story right there in the title: Nujood did get divorced from this animal. How she escaped and managed to get divorced is a compelling story, one that was difficult for me to read.
The author--Delphine Minoui, who covered Nujood's story as a journalist--spares us most of the physical details. She mentions the pain Nujood endured, and that's only natural, but the descriptions are not graphic, thank God, and they are not used excessively.
I mention this, because some autobiographies would bash us over the head with graphic details, in an attempt to remind us, as readers, that the narratrix had endured horrible pain. Ms Minoui doesn't shy away from what happened, but she gracefully avoids using it as a crutch.
There is so much in Nujood to like, without overplaying that she was victimized. She was a relatively normal little girl, with very little education. She liked to draw, loved chocolate, and wanted to be a sea turtle.
That was one of the only faults I had with the book: the repeated descriptions of loving to draw, eat candy, and wanting to be a sea turtle...okay. Thank you. We get that.
This is part of the larger issue: I'm sure it's difficult for a veteran journalist to write in the voice of a ten year-old girl with less than a year of formal schooling. Mostly, this worked out well. However, at times, I heard less the ten year-old telling her compelling story, than an adult making sure we were won over to Nujood's cause, and that we all ran right out and volunteered to fight for all the Nujood's in the world.
Nujood was a courageous little girl to fight her way out of that horrible marriage. There is no doubt that being forced into marriage at age nine is wrong, and that it's deplorable that this savage consummated it, and didn't suddenly catch fire, and burn for all eternity. Telling Nujood's story is enough. Telling us hundreds of times that she wants to be a lawyer someday, to fight for all the other girls in that situation--that's a little bit of overkill.
This is a minor complaint.
My guess is that Ms Minoui was so repulsed by this abomination--perhaps imagining it happening to her own daughter--that she wanted there to be no doubt that Nujood is a little girl, who endured a horrible injustice, and that she was making her case for the millions of Nujoods out there.
I find that perfectly understandable, and 100% forgivable.
I don't have any children. I've never been especially against them--I don't hate them--I just haven't ever felt like I wanted to procreate.
A few years ago, I dated a woman with twin five year-olds, a boy and a girl, Shortstop and Princess were my nicknames for them. Their mother and I broke up after a year, and our friendship just petered-out a couple years after that. Shortstop and Princess turned nine in October. I haven't talked to their mother in over a year, but if anything like this happened to Princess, I would have no problem ruining the offender's life.
With a baseball bat, my truck, a chainsaw, whatever.
So, yes. I think Ms Minoui may have let her own protective instincts filter through her narrative. And I don't blame her one damned bit.
Nujood got her divorce. The sick-sad funny thing about it? The court fined her $250 to repay the dowry her tormentor paid for her. Oh, and he has no criminal record, nor will he as a result of the child rape and beatings. Under Yemeni law at that time, if it's your wife, it ain't rape, no matter how many times she says no.
This is a really good book, about an extraordinarily brave little girl, and her extraordinarily smart and loving lawyer, as they fought for her freedom. Probably the happiest part for me came in the Epilogue, where we find that the laws have been changed after Nujood's story received international exposure. I hope those laws get enforced.
Oh, and nobody knows what happened to the ex. He's unlocatable.
I read that, and I just smiled, and thought of Lisbeth Salander, exacting vicarious revenge for Nujood. If not Lisbeth, than anyone else on earth would suffice.