Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

a nutshell: from Somalia to the US via Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Netherlands, this polarising public figure’s memoir follows her journey through an unimaginably turbulent childhood into an adulthood that pivots on her vocal disavowal of her former religion, Islam

a line: “Drinking wine and wearing trousers were nothing compared to reading the history of ideas.”

an image: while describing the period of her childhood spent in Mecca, the writer conjures up a strikingly vivid contrast between what she sees as the cool, beautiful, kindly space within the Grand Mosque and the intensely hot, filthy, cruel space outside the mosque’s doors

a thought: I was intrigued by Ali’s fairly understated comment on p.94 that novels were what saved her from submission – reading fiction gave her glimpses of another world, which ultimately sparked the sense of rebellion that changed her life, but once she had landed in the other world she refers only to non-fiction

a fact: Ali and I occupy very opposite ends of the political spectrum – and while I do try to read widely, which necessarily includes views I disagree with, my interest in the book waned as it went on; I felt like it became less a reflection on Ali’s life story and more an engine for promoting her hostility towards Islam

want to read Infidel? visit here

Running Commentary by Daphne Caruana Galizia

a nutshell: the Maltese woman writer I include in this project could be none other than Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose commitment to exposing injustice through her writing eventuated in the 2017 murder that sent shock waves across the world

a line: “It’s true that life is unfair and that much of it can’t be helped, but where I can do anything to avoid unfairness or to set it straight, then I will”

an image: I took the photo above at a vigil for Daphne in April 2018, which was one of countless global events that have kept her memory alive over the past 30 months (often with moving contributions from her sons, two of whom I had the privilege of meeting on occasion through my human rights work in London)

a thought: while reading through Daphne’s online notebook to prepare my blog post, I came across this article in which she notes that the real reason – which she had uncovered nearly a year earlier – for a US trip by the PM was at last being acknowledged as the truth, even though previously she had been badmouthed as a purveyor of fake news; I was struck by Daphne’s observation that in journalism, as in many areas in life, “you sometimes find the back-up you need a little too late” and touched by her readers’ comments at the time that they always had full faith in her

a fact: one of Daphne’s sons, Paul, has followed in her footsteps as a journalist and speaks about his mother’s murder for Tortoise’s podcast – I highly recommend a listen

want to read Running Commentary? visit here