OSAMA BIN LADEN by Elaine Landau


A War Against the West
Age Range: 12 & up
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Four months ago, every library in America needed a book for young people on bin Laden; now, this prolific nonfiction author delivers the biography she has spent three years researching. After a hastily written chapter on the September 11 attacks, bin Laden’s life is portrayed in as much detail as is known: his privileged upbringing, his transformative experiences in Afghanistan, his later career in Sudan, the Philippines, and Somalia, and his growing influence in radical Islamic circles. Landau’s prose is not particularly graceful, but the story is intrinsically chilling. Scrupulously distinguishing bin Laden’s beliefs and actions from mainstream Islam, she roundly condemns his terrorist activities, yet also fairly presents those qualities that have made him both revered and effective: his intelligence and organizational skills, his religious fervor, bravery, and personal austerity. Less successful are the explanations for the attraction of his extremist ideology; the repressive conditions in many Islamic nations are glossed over, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict never mentioned. Other complex issues are over-simplified, sometimes to the point of minor error. Teens who have been avidly following current events will find little new here; others will gain an adequate introduction to “who” and “how,” but will need to look elsewhere for “why.” Black-and-white photos are more decorative than illustrative, but unfortunately there are no maps. She includes further reading, a woefully inadequate glossary (e.g., including “Shiite” but not “Sunni”), skimpy source notes (two-thirds from just two books), and an index. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7613-1709-0
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2002


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