There is an uncanny wisdom in the eyes of the young woman on the cover. She is lovely, under her black head scarf and black coat that all Yemeni woman are expected to wear. If she were in the US she might be in a soccer uniform, or casual school clothes. Her story might be about overcoming an illness or creating a charity or the contradictions of college life as a pre-teen. But she is from Yemen: a country where the legal age for girls to marry is 15, but many girls even younger are still routinely married to men two or three times their age.
So it was for Nujood. She begins her tale in the courthouse, where she is seeking a divorce. She then goes on to tell of how her family was uprooted from their village and moved to the city. There school is her refuge from increasing poverty. When a man, with a job, who is from their home village, approaches her father to say that he would like their two families to be united, her father jumps at the chance. Not only will he have one less mouth to feed, but also it might mean a better life for his daughter.
Of course it did not. The sad truth is the treatment that Nujood was subjected to is not uncommon. What is uncommon is that she found the will and courage to run away from her husband and his family and to seek a divorce in the courts. She is young and naive enough to think that all she must do is find a judge and ask him to declare that she is divorced. While she is not well versed in the ways of the world, she is profoundly aware of injustice and her right to be free from abuse. As her story unfolds it become clear that she is not the only girl in her family who has been caught in the cruelty of a cultural where a man’s honor is defined by the actions of the women in his family.
The book is a fast and very enjoyable read, written from her very young perspective, but with a wisdom that is so evident in her eyes.