In 1974, Carmen, half-Swiss and half-Persian, married into the bin Ladin family. She was young and in love, an independent European woman about to join a complex clan and a culture she neither knew nor understood. In Saudi Arabia, she was forbidden to leave her home without the head-to-toe black abaya that completely covered her. Her face could never be seen by a man outside the family. And according to Saudi law, her husband could divorce her at will, without any kind of court procedure, and take her children away from her forever.
Carmen was an outsider among the bin Ladin wives, their closets full of haute couture dresses, their rights so restricted that they could not go outside their homes, not even to cross the street, without a chaperone. The author takes us inside the hearts and minds of these women, always at the mercy of the husbands who totally control their lives, and always convinced that their religion and culture are superior to any other. And as Carmen tells of her struggle to save her marriage and raise her daughters to be freethinking young women, she describes this family's ties to the Saudi royal family and introduces us to the ever loyal bin Ladin brothers, including one particular brother-in-law she was to encounter: Osama.
In 1988, in Switzerland, Carmen bin Ladin separated from her husband and began one of her toughest battles: to gain the custody of her three daughters. Now, with her candid memoir, she dares to pull off the veils that conceal one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressive countries in the world, and the bin Ladin family's role within it.
©2004 Carmen Bin Ladin; (P)2004 Time Warner AudioBooks
"The gravity of the events Carmen writes of, her insider's perspective, and her engaging style make this memoir a page-turner." (Publishers Weekly)
Carmen provides a personal and informative account of her life. This book is about a Saudi mother and her children, her love of a Bin Laden, and life behind the veil of Saudi women.
If you want to understand "why they hate us", this will help. Osama is not the focus of this book. The sewing of the seeds of hate for America and the Saudi internal pressures and mind-set are well presented.
After "reading" two wonderful first-hand accounts of life in the Middle East -- Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, and Naked in Baghdad, by Anne Garrels -- I was looking forward to getting an insider's view of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, this felt more like the work of an author who wanted to capitalize on her (in)famous last name and in the process, throw some zingers at her ex-husband and his family after a bitter divorce. The fact that women in Saudi Arabia have to wear veils and can't interact with men to whom they aren't related isn't news; neither is the fact that Saudi society isn't friendly to women, Christians, or Westerners. And after hearing all through the book about the extravagant lifestyle she and her husband lived -- hobnobbing with foreign diplomats, putting in tennis courts at their private compound, haute couture wardrobes, chartered jets, European vacations, etc. -- it sounds absurd when she finally gets around to mentioning the Saudi royal family (near the end of the book) and expresses horror at their "decadent lifestyle". If you want an Arabic version of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", this is the book for you, but if you're looking for insight into Middle Eastern culture, you won't find much of it here.
Carmen has done an excellent job of presenting her story. This is a pretty good look into the restrictive society in Sauida Arabia. However, having lived in Saudi Arabia myself for 6 years, I can say that many Saudi women LOVE their lives. I think it is extremely dangerous for Americans to view any lifestyle unlike their own as somehow bad or less valuable. As an American woman in Saudi Arabia, I was startled to find that American women are pittied by many well educated, worldly, well traveled Saudi women. Pittied, you say? They think it sad that American women are forced to work outside the home, do their own housework and laundry, taxi the kids back and forth to school and extracurriculars, and don't have chauffers. Carmen had many of her freedoms curtailed in that rigidly Islamic society, but as one very wise Saudi pointed out to me: "American women cannot walk safely alone at night in any American city. They are kidnapped, raped and murdered. You pay a very high price for your 'freedom'." Food for thought?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. What a revealing book about the "nothingness" and forced subservience of women in the Middle East. For a country, in this day and age, to treat women as though they were not worthy of anything absolutely appalls me. I am so glad Carmen bin Laden and her daughters escaped such a horrible life.
yes and I have because it had a good story and was so interesting.
Growing up Bin Ladin, because they were about the same topic.
This book, although it consisted of several facts, was full of untrue facts. I'm a Saudi citizen, and i think the writer tried to generalize what was a special and a personal experiment on the whole society.
It seems that the global civilisation merges us into one world. But, in truth, it doesn't and not far away we can meet a civilisation more distant than if it were born on Mars ! Only a bit more influential. An interesting travel into the totally foreign land !
I love to learn about different cultures and this book certainly opened my eyes to the way of life in Saudi Arabia. The narrator's accent certainly made the story sound like it might have come from Carmen's lips. A fascinating read!
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