Growing up Bin Laden by Jean Sasson (with Osama’s wife and son)

book cover: Growing up bin ladenTitle: Growing up Bin Laden
Author: Jean Sasson (with Najwa Bin Laden and Omar Bin Laden)
352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
Set in: Saudi Arabia
Genre: Non-Fiction (memoir)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts: Having read and loved most of Jean Sasson’s books, I’m always happy when I discover she’s written a new book. This book was more interesting to me because it was written on Osama Bin Laden, the elusive ‘self-proclaimed’ jihadi. Although I have intense hate for him, there is a part of me that wants to know why and how does a man become the Osama. How does a guy have so much control over so many people that they were willing to die for him? Also, What kind of family life did he have? All this and the author’s name led me to read this book.

The book starts with Osama’s life in Jeddah, then Sudan and finally to Afghanistan. Because the book is from his family’s point of view it doesn’t have details of his jihadi life but enough to note the major crossroads of his life and how it shaped and encouraged him towards a violent future.

Omar Bin laden: courtesy 4th-reich

The first thing that struck me about this book is the honesty with which it’s written. It must have taken immense strength from the wife and son to narrate this. They don’t pretend to hate Osama for the sake of the world. They loved and tried to please him in spite of what he was. His sons and wives spent their lives travelling with him to various countries and living in increasingly deteriorating conditions. Osama was a rich and successful builder to begin with. His family lived in luxury until Osama became overly “religious”. This book is not written for the sake of writing one. I have read memoirs of people where all they write is common knowledge. But this book reveals a different side to Osama, it shows him as a devoted family man. Time Magazine describes it best

‘The thrill of being a fly on the wall of the bin Laden family’.

The book was written before Osama dies so that part is still a mystery but fortunately I have a later edition of the book which gives a brief idea of the reaction of his family to his death. I seriously cannot stop talking about ‘Growing up Bin Laden‘ and since there is no one else I can talk to, I am happy and grateful I have this place.

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For the Love of a Son by Jean Sasson

Title: For the Love of a Son
Author: Jean Sasson
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Personal Shelf
Set in: Afghanistan, America and Jeddah
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I love books by Jean Sasson. The first time I read on of her books I was in 11t Grade and it was probably my first non-fiction book. I have been a huge fan of hers ever since. I think her writing is simple but the stories in her books are heart wrenching. I remember I cried a lot when I read her book Mayada. She writes about women in the Muslim World. She writes about their oppression at the hands of those they love, oppression by their government and because of age old beliefs that are hard to shake even in this century.

This book is no different. For the Love of a Son is the story of a woman from Afghanistan called Maryam. Jean Sasson begins by telling us about Maryam’s grandmothers forced wedding to a man much older than her and the brutality she faced after he died. Maryam’s father was a very kind man in comparison to most of the Afghan men. She grew up under the loving protection of her much liberal parents and was, in a way, naive about the world around her. She saw them suffer abuse and thought them weak for not raising their voices.

But her perfect world came crashing down when their family had to flee Afghanistan after the Russian invasion. Their family immigrated to America where she thought she would be free from the sanctions imposed by Afghanistan government and their society. Maryam’s father married her off to a fellow Afghan who turned out to be a very violent and abusive man. When she had a son, he fled with him to Afghanistan.

This story is mainly Maryam’s but it is also the story of all the women who have suffered tremendously because of their government or their culture. This book tells us about so many such woman whom either Maryam knew personally or had heard about. I feel sad knowing there is so much cruelty against women, that their father’s, brothers and uncles who are supposed to love and cherish them, push them into a dark world and leave them without hope or self respect. It’s unbelievable how strong these women are even if it’s for the sake of their family, their children or themselves.

I will remember Maryam’s story for  along time to come and I hope more people read this book.

Note: That’s Maryam on the cover by the way. Also, it’s surprising how much history of Afghanistan is covered in this book which was a plus point for me.