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.

The Night of the Miraj by Zoe Ferraris

Title:The Night of the Miraj
Author: Zoe Ferraris
Source: Personal Library
Genre: Mystery
Set in: Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5

My thoughts:
I love reading anything set in the middle east, so when i saw the desert on the cover, I picked it up without realizing what the book is about. I was surprised when later I read the synopsis carefully and noted that it was a thriller. I don’t know many thrillers set in the desert. Imagine my surprise when I found out that ‘Night of the Mirage’ is the book ‘Finding Nouf‘ with a different name, a book which had been on my wish list for some time.

A rich 16 year old Nouf goes missing taking with her a truck and a camel. Assuming she is either kidnapped or has ran off into the desert, her family takes help of a family friend Nayir who knows a lot about the desert. Nayir takes help of Katya, Nouf’s brother’s fiance, who works in the forensic department. As Nayir and Katya learn more about Nouf and her life, we as readers get to see inside the life of the rich of Jeddah and also get a glimpse of a society which likes to keep its women under wraps and their family honor intact under any circumstances.

Set in Jeddah, this book offers a unique setting which the author has bought to life. It feels like you are actually inside Jeddah and are looking at real people and real issues. The Night of the Miraj is not just a mystery but it also shows the changing face of the society when it comes to women and their position in it.

Recommended. I’m really looking forward to City of Veils, the follow up to The Night of the Miraj.