An as-told-to autobiography explores an Islamist marriage.
The pseudonymous Nadia grew up in rural Algeria, the eldest daughter of poor parents who were alternately loving and abusive. Her village community was religious enough—they observed Muslim practices, if not especially strictly. When Nadia was a teenager, she became smitten with a neighbor boy, Ahmed. Though her parents objected to the match—Ahmed was a bit of a rogue—eventually the lovebirds married. Ahmed, it turns out, wasn’t just a harmless scoundrel. In the months before he married Nadia, he had become a militant Islamist, and joined the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, a terrorist organization determined to bring Islamist government to Algeria. Nadia tried to adjust to her husband’s Islamist zeal. Ahmed insisted that she cook meals for him and all of his comrades; complying required Nadia to spend literally every waking hour in the kitchen. Even once Nadia was pregnant, Ahmed pushed her to make sacrifices for the movement, working more and sleeping less. She contemplated disobeying him, but she knew that he would kill her without thinking twice. Eventually, Ahmed vanished and Nadia, fearful that the state police were hunting for her, fled her home. After giving birth and learning that Ahmed was dead, she made her way to an agency for victimized women and began to piece her life back together. Algerian journalist Gacemi interviewed Nadia in 1997, and shaped the interviews into this book, which was published in France in 1998. Occasionally, Gacemi’s penchant for breathless cliffhangers grows old: too many chapters end with dramatic sentences like “Saloua and Fatiha were later decapitated” or “I’ve paid dearly for it.” Nadia tells her story simply, offering little analysis. It is the very directness of the narrative that will push readers to consider both the appeal Islamism holds for some downtrodden women, and the way militant Islamism keeps women prisoners.
An ultimately heart-wrenching personal account.