Ayaan Hirsi Ali's memoir Infidel spans multiple continents -- from Somalia and Kenya to the Netherlands and the United States -- and traces her life from her first memories to her controversial political career as an adult. Born in Somalia, Ali was raised in a rigid form of Islam and underwent the horrific practice of female genital mutilation as a young child. As the daughter of a leading figure in the Somali civil war of the 1980s and 1990s, she spent years living abroad in Saudi Arabia and Kenya, before returning to Somalia. In her early 20s, Ali fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage to a man she barely knew, and sought refugee status there.
In the years that followed, she resumed her education, began a career in Dutch politics, grappled with her dwindling faith, and received death threats for her public criticisms of Islam. Written with both courage and candor, Infidel is an important and riveting story.
Trigger warning: contains graphic descriptions of female genital mutilation.
“It was Friday, July 24, 1992, when I stepped on the train. Every year I think of it. I see it as my real birthday: the birth of me as a person, making decisions about my life on my own. I was not running away from Islam, or to democracy. I didn't have any big ideas then. I was just a young girl and wanted some way to be me; so I bolted into the unknown.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former Dutch politician, author, and humanitarian activist. In 2007, she founded the AHA Foundation to support women's rights and fight against forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and honor killings. Her books include Infidel; Nomad: From Islam to America; and The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.
Length: 353 pages
Main Settings: Mogadishu, Somalia; Nairobi, Kenya; the Netherlands
Secondary Settings: Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Boston, Massachusetts, United States