Photo: Random House
Headlines traveled around the globe when the barely 10-year-old Nujood Ali obtained her divorce from a forced marriage.
We publish I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, in Encounters this month. To read an Encounters extract from this revealing memoir,
Publishers Weekly had this to say about Nujood's searing account of her ordeals:
Headlines traveled around the globe when the barely 10-year-old Nujood Ali 'found the courage to knock on the [Yemen] courtroom door'; she had come seeking a divorce from the sexually abusive and violent 30-ish man, a marriage arranged by her father. French journalist Minoui renders Ali's life from the young child's perspective without sensationalism, as respectful of Ali's faith as affected by her courage … As Ali's life ('I have always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers”) moves into the public sphere, she discovers (fortunately) the compassionate judges and the dedicated lawyer of a more urbane Yemen. Simple and straightforward in its telling, this is an informative and thoroughly engaging narrative.
Our reader Ayisha Fraser tells us more—thanks Ayisha!
Nujood Ali begins her life in Khardji, a rural and remote region of Yemen, where water for the house is collected from a stream, and only boys take the two-hour trudge to school. When a violent dispute between her father and other locals prompts a family move to the capital, Nujood’s father struggles to find work, and the children are forced to beg on the streets. The family becomes accustomed to poverty in Sana’a, however, and Nujood enjoys starting school.
Nujood’s older sisters are married young, but the details of marriage seem shadowy and remote to Nujood, until she is suddenly thrust into it, without even enough time to buy one of the beautiful wedding dresses she has long admired. After the wedding Nujood is terrorised by her mother-in-law and brutalised by her husband, who has not even paid lip-service to his promise to Nujood’s father not to touch her until she passes puberty. Nujood, an intelligent and feisty child, does her utmost to protest against their harsh treatment, but this only leads to further beatings.
Finally, her husband’s family agrees to allow her to visit her family in Sana’a. Nujood, determined to never return to her husband, journeys to the local courthouse, where she is lucky enough to find a judge who listens to her story. She is taken into care while a pro-active feminist lawyer puts together her case. Nujood wins this landmark case and is granted a divorce, while her husband (and father) are prosecuted. Nujood’s brave stance leads to similar cases being brought to court, and prompts the drafting of legislation to change the legal age of marriage to eighteen. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is an inspiring tale of injustice fought and overturned.
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