Read Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam by Zainab Salbi Laurie Becklund Online


Zainab Salbi was eleven years old when her father was chosen to be Saddam Hussein's personal pilot and her family's life was grafted onto his. Her mother, the beautiful Alia, taught her daughter the skills she needed to survive. A plastic smile. Saying yes. Burying in boxes in her mind the horrors she glimpsed around her. "Learn to erase your memories," she instructed. "HeZainab Salbi was eleven years old when her father was chosen to be Saddam Hussein's personal pilot and her family's life was grafted onto his. Her mother, the beautiful Alia, taught her daughter the skills she needed to survive. A plastic smile. Saying yes. Burying in boxes in her mind the horrors she glimpsed around her. "Learn to erase your memories," she instructed. "He can read eyes." In this richly visual memoir, Salbi describes tyranny as she saw it--through the eyes of a privileged child, a rebellious teenager, a violated wife, and ultimately a public figure fighting to overcome the skill that once kept her alive: silence. Between Two Worlds is a riveting quest for truth that deepens our understanding of the universal themes of power, fear, sexual subjugation, and the question one generation asks the one before it: How could you have let this happen to us?...

Title : Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
Author :
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ISBN : 9781592402441
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam Reviews

  • Cathyb53
    2018-09-23 00:10

    Zainab Salbi is an amazing woman. I first came to know of her when she appeared on 'Oprah', talking about an organization she founded called Women for Women International . In this program, women in the worst circumstances in the world - Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Congo, the survivors of civil war, poverty, rape, and violence - are linked directly with their "sisters", sponsors who send a small amount of money every month directly to the women who need it. The women are educated in such issues as human rights, microcredit, and community organizing, and learn skills to earn money they can use to support their families and educate their children. They remain in the program for approximately a year, during which time they correspond directly (using translators provided by the program) with their sisters, via an exchange of letters, photographs, and progress reports. Immediately after learning about Women for Women, I became a sponsor of a sister in Rwanda; since that time, I have had maybe 5 6 or 7 "sisters", all in Rwanda, and I have learned so much about their lives.Anyway, when Zainab Salbi's own first-hand story of growing up in Saddam Hussein's Iraq - her father was Saddam's pilot, and in the "inner circle" of his friends - was published, I couldn't wait to read it. This woman is one of my heroes! Her story is strange and surprisingly gripping; while she is not the greatest writer, her story is compelling, and contains a hint of mystery. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be an upper-class woman in Saddam's Iraq? Very queasy-making! I recommend this book quite strongly - even more strongly, I recommend Women for Women. I can't tell you how much it has enriched my life. Go there:

  • Virginia
    2018-10-15 21:26

    This was a hard book to read. First of all, I hate reading sad books full of suffering - particularly if it is true. Second, throughout the entire book until Salbi's journey to the US, I felt a constant dread as I read about her life. I trust that is just a small taste of her constant fear while growing up in the shadow of Saddam Hussein. Third, I read far too much about rape and war and horrendous suffering. I do not know why I am still astonished at the evil that goes on in this world and how truly oblivious I am to most of it. I am grateful and ashamed.I am glad to have read this book - if only to bear witness to Salbi's story. I never realized just how similar Salbi's privileged childhood in Iraq resembled life in the US. I always assumed that Iraq has always been backwards and war-torn. How arrogant and stupid that view seems to me now. (Not that I am an expert by any means on Iraq now.)It pains me to have read this and to now hold these stories within me. But I also witnessed beauty and the triumph of Salbi, her healing, and the shining love of Salbi's mother and father and brothers. Once again, I am grateful that my life is so easy and good and full of joy. I pray that my children and I will never experience the depth of pain and suffering that Salbi and her people have.

  • Diane
    2018-10-07 20:29

    Saw the author (Zainab Salbi) interviews in a documentary "Faces of Evil", the Saddam Hussein episode. Was intrigued.The book doesn't disappoint. I can't imagine growing up in that type of oppressed and terrifying environment. The book is well written and keeps the reader captivated and wanting to know more. Unless you lived under Saddam's rule and evilness you can only speculate what took place and on day to day. Nobody was safe from him, nobody. There are some unwritten events that the reader is free is guess at, and other written events that triggered my memory of what happened during that time period. The author overcame great hardship and some very bad experiences which helped her get involved in Women's Rights all over the world.Glad I read this book and do recommend this book!4.5 stars and 2 thumbs up.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2018-10-13 21:21

    I would not have read this memoir but for my world books challenge, and that would have been a loss, because it is a fascinating book.Zainab Salbi grew up in a prosperous and well-connected Iraqi family in the 1970s and 1980s – as it turned out, they were too well-connected, because Saddam Hussein was determined to keep her parents and, by extension, the whole family, in his orbit. I initially assumed that the title, “Between Two Worlds,” referenced the author’s immigration from Iraq to the United States, but when this phrase is used within the book, it’s actually to refer to Salbi’s feeling of being caught between two worlds within Iraqi society: between the dictator’s elite inner circle and the regular middle-class world that he terrorized. She and her family shuttle between the two, spending weekends in one of the palace compounds and playing their prescribed roles at official events (a performance, in which they can't afford to ever let the façade drop), and weekdays in their own neighborhood, where Salbi can't let on to friends that she knew Saddam as “Uncle.”Although most of this book takes place under a bloody dictatorship, and some of it during wartime, it’s not a violent story – and yet, we see how Salbi and her family are torn apart by the constant fear, stress, and need to pretend in order to protect themselves. One of the questions she wrestles with throughout the book is why Iraqis allowed such an oppressive regime, and more specifically, why her parents stayed, knowing what a dangerous situation they put themselves and their children in. She compares it to an abusive relationship – at first they thought they could handle it, and then they were in too far and afraid to leave – and that’s not a comparison Salbi makes lightly, because in the course of extricating herself from her childhood she also experiences interpersonal abuse. But she is an immensely strong person who is able to extricate herself from ugly situations and ultimately help others.So I found this to be an enthralling story, from the details of life in Iraq under Saddam’s rule to the author’s personal journey of healing and self-discovery. In general I am leery of ghostwritten books (I assume that as “collaborator,” journalist Laurie Becklund did most of the writing), but here the collaboration appears successful: the writing feels personal and immediate, with Becklund’s contributions presumably being the clear and readable style and organization. At the same time, it's written with a good dose of self-awareness; Salbi recognizes that many other people were worse off than she, and she deals fairly with people who turned out to be unsavory.At any rate, this is another win for reading outside my natural comfort zone (my comfort zone is expanding). Recommended.

  • D.J. Murphy
    2018-10-06 20:18

    Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi was the first account I have read by someone who personally knew and socialized with Saddam. Her book is a wrenching description of the horrors she and her family experienced in their "privileged" position as friends of Saddam. It's a very worthwhile account.I'm struck by the parallels between Zainab Salbi and Fatima Shihabi, the heroine of my novel A Thousand Veils. Almost identical in age, both women were only daughters in loving Shiite families. Both bonded at an early age with their fathers. Yet, both were victims of abusive marriages. Both in their own ways had to escape Saddam's clutches. Eventually they overcame these setbacks to emerge as strong, resilient women. Even so, certain aspects of their personal stories were markedly different. Unlike Zainab, who grew up in a secular family in cosmopolitan Baghdad, Fatima was raised in the conservative religiosity of the Holy City of Najaf. Fatima had to take the veil at the age of 12, even as Zainab was trying to fit in to the "cool" culture of her socially precocious classmates. Just as Zainab was leaving Iraq for a safer, more settled life in the US, Fatima was arriving in Baghdad to live with her brother's prominent family. While Zainab was in the US, Fatima experienced the horrible conditions of Iraq during the 90s - the nightly bombings during the First Gulf War, the terrible privation as a result of the UN sanctions, and Saddam's repression of Shiites and intellectuals. Compared side by side, these two books are very complementary in their detailed accounts of life under Saddam. And, more importantly for students of Islam in the West, they show the subtlely different shades of Islam, even within the same country and the same sect.

  • Zachary White
    2018-10-15 20:07

    Salbi’s story of growing up in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was tough to read, but also tough to put down. She shares her life story of growing up in his shadow, as the book’s title explains. It wasn’t a story of growing up around Hussein, but a story about Salbi and her time both in and outside Iraq. Hussein was able to completely manipulate an entire country through the use of terror. His power came from fear. More than half of the book is the story of adults being so scared that they forget how to make their own decisions. Because of her family’s proximity to Hussein, they had to make themselves available to him whenever he called on them and live the life he wanted them to live. This story does a great job of letting us live the life of an affluent family in Iraq at that time.However, Salbi explains her family’s relationship with Hussein as, somehow, different than any other affluent family that was in his inner circle. She says that, to everyone else in the country, she was an outsider because her family was “Friends of Saddam.” Within Hussein’s inner circle, she considered her family outsiders, as well. While she may believe that is true, I find it hard to believe that the people her family spent the most time with saw them as outsiders.Understandably, she seems to have trouble coping with her relationship with Hussein. She goes back and forth when she talks about how she felt. She describes knowing two different versions of Saddam Hussein. She makes comments about hating him as a child and young adult but also tells stories about how she had fun with him or while in his company. So I wonder if her recollection of hatred is real, or only hindsight. In all, an excellent book with a story that helped me view the world from a different perspective.

  • Christina
    2018-10-01 02:25

    This is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read, and I loved it even though I don't usually get super jazzed about inspiring stuff. Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and her parents were reluctantly drawn into his inner circle. The dictator tore her country and family apart, but Salbi showed him who's really boss by growing up to found a successful non-profit called Women for Women International. There are so many interesting details about Iraqi culture in this book, and many heartrending stories of people being ground down by war. Salbi doesn't sugar coat anything, and she doesn't put a shiny veneer on the ending to make it look like the world is wrapped in a neat peaceful box. But she does manage to project hope through the personal closure she finds in her own life and family.To be honest, it's not the best-written memoir I've ever read. The first half of the book reads like a handful of memories rather than a continuously flowing story, and there are occasional cliché touches throughout. But I was inspired and touched by Zainab Salbi's strength and her choices in the face of oppression. She deserves 10 stars.(I couldn't help but think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's memoir, Infidel, as I was reading this. Their stories are not really that similar, but very interesting to compare/contrast.)

  • Sheida Nobakht
    2018-10-18 20:16

    The narrative language of the book is very sympathetic; In a way that sometimes I forgot that I was reading a book and rather felt like hearing a close friend sharing her memories of life with me. Even though I had already heard a lot from Saddam, rumors and mostly real horror stories, but the facts about him narrated by Zainab Salbi was still in many cases shocking. Being raised in between the two cultures of these two countries, which have much more in common than what their people think, I enjoyed the book maybe even more than an Iranian or Iraqi reader. But still I am sure anyone who is interested in interactions of the human emotions with history, politics, and society will enjoy this book.

  • Amirtha Shri
    2018-10-20 02:27

    Multiple facets of a terrible circumstance unrevealed with utmost emotion! The book is filled with rapes and manipulations, that leads me to question the status quo - have we become better? have we lost motivation to improve because we are just a bit better? are we really better now and here?

  • Tahereh
    2018-09-25 01:21

    Some part of this book was from the perspective opposite of me during Iran-Iraq warSo similar and yet so different experience for Zainab and me.She is a very brave woman to share her personal experience in this book

  • Noreen
    2018-10-05 22:07

    Zainab Salbi, and her family grew up as part of Saddam Hussein's (Amo) inner circle and lived in a Hussein's compound. pg 24: Today, the principal theological difference between the two sects is that Shia theologians tend to accept the necessity of continuously applying independent reasoning to contemporary life while Sunni Theologians are more comfortable relying on doctrines established centuries ago by religious scholars who established 4 different schools of Sunni 207: Amjad's adviser, Dr Sachedina was the imam, who was to perform our Islamic wedding and help with the marriage contract. Amjad and I had already discussed the dowry and had agreed that it was to be symbolic, a single gold coin from Jerusalem. "Zainab, you have a lot more rights to discuss besides the dowry, Zainab. You need to put down all your conditions." ...People don't know Islamic law, and they assume cultural practices stem from Islam. When a woman marries in Islam, she has the right to stipulate all the conditions she wants to have in her marriage. Then, the husband needs to sign if he agrees to those conditions. This is your chance to put in whatever conditions you choose as part of your contract for marrying Amjad. Anything I want? Anything from the kind of lifestyle you want to the way you want to raise your children. A kind of prenuptial agreement.Here's my computer, Zainub..."Just type in all your conditions for the marriage contract, and if Amjad agrees, they're binding. Good luck.She types: "You may not stop me from pursuing any career or educational path.""You must share with me all household duties fifty-fifty. You must do half the cooking, you must do half the cleaning...""I want to share the right to initiate divorce."Changes to the Islamic marriage contract are allowed after you are married. Zainub makes a decision to become a "strong woman" instead of a "good wife." Congratulations Zainab Salbi, you seem to be well on your way to reaching Maslow's self-actualization peak.

  • Rachel
    2018-10-19 00:29

    zainab salbi is one of my heroes. she founded the non-profit women for women international, an organization through which you can sponsor a woman for a year in a war torn country. women tend to be the the fields upon which war is waged, their bodies become the battlefield and use of rape as a systemic weapon of war not only tears apart women, both physically and emotionally, but also entire communities. salbi's program offers woman a chance to put their lives back together and empowers them to speak out against the wrong that has been done to them, as well as giving them counseling and job skills training to help them live again.but i'm getting off track...salbi's memoir really focuses on her own story, one she had been ashamed to tell in spite of encouraging other women victims to make their voices heard. she opens up about growing up in iraq during saddam's rise to power. her parents were chosen by saddam to be part of his inner circle--an invitation they could not refuse. from the time she was a toddler, zanaib was raised in a culture of fear and control. it's a fascinating personal account of someone who lived close to a dictator. at its heart this is a book about parents and children, and how painful it can be for a child when she doesn't feel her parents are protecting her. i found her emotional journey inspiring and redemptive.

  • Laura
    2018-10-14 23:32

    About a year ago I met a former LA Times reporter and got to know her briefly as she gallantly fought the battle for her life with advanced breast cancer. Laurie Becklund came to me to help her research information about the over all fight against advanced breast cancer, and why so much effort went into prevention, and catching the disease early, but not much went into turning back the advancing disease.Our encounters were brief, but detailed enough to expose kindred spirits. Having just lost a dear friend to breast cancer I was eager to work with her on her investigations. Unfortunately after just a few encounters I stopped seeing her. Fearing the worst I googled and discovered a wonderful obituary at . Seeing I could no longer get get to know her in person I wanted to experience her writing. The only item of her writing that was available in a format I could easily read (I can't turn pages easily) was this book.This book was a product of her work as a reporter, and it was a wonderful choice of subjects. It exposes the dichotomy of what was the Iraqi society in the time of Saddam through the eyes of women of privelege. Privelage in this case is a double edged sword and thus the quality of this memior. Thank you Laurie for exposing me to this story.

  • Ella Burakowski
    2018-10-08 22:09

    Zainab Salbi was the daughter of Saddam Hussein's pilot. By being his pilot he was now part of Saddam's "inner circle" and because of that his family has to follow suit. Zainab was just a young girl when she was made to call Saddam "Amo", which meant uncle. Through his tyranny, he expected people to show their affection for him by forcing them to give him gifts of gold, kiss him, call him endearing names and be at his beck and call, which included rape if he so desired. Zainab's parents were very loving, and it was that love for her and fear of Saddam that forced her mother to make a mistake that would plunge Zainab into a hell even she did not know under Saddam's regime. Her emotional journey from childhood to womanhood led her on her path to start an organization called Women for Women International, an organization that empowers women victims of war, to not only survive their ordeal, but to become whole again. Zainab turned her family's oppressive life experiences into a positive action. A few months back I joined WFWI and am now sponsoring a woman in Rwanda. It was particularly interesting for me to see how this organization came to be. Through the eyes of a frightened child, a confused teenager and then an abused woman, Zainab Salbi rose to the top and turned it all around for herself and other victims.

  • Jayme
    2018-09-23 01:02

    This book progresses much like the author's life does: it starts out mild--the danger of Saddam's Iraq lurks beneath the surface, coloring the background--and gets harder and harder to endure as the despicable cleverness of his manipulation and the cruelty and violence and psychopathic behavior is unveiled. I thought I knew a lot about Iraq, but I only knew post-Saddam Iraq. This was an introduction to a whole other horrific world: the world of being a "friend" of Saddam. The horror was no less real for the veneer of friendship. One gets so accustomed to the vague fact of tyrants. They become like cartoon villains in our minds, because their actions were so outrageous we think only a caricature could REALLY be like that. But Saddam really was like that.Parts of this book were hard to get through and the author talks about the victimization and rape of women in a variety of countries, since she started an organization that helps women who have been systematically victimized during war. It will break your heart, and probably make you want to look up her NGO and find out if you can get involved.

  • Sheila
    2018-10-14 01:17

    Extraordinary. What I particularly like is that the age of the author almost syncs with my own and I can reflect on where I was, in cushy misguided USA, when her country was at war. And despite the different techniques and styles, Salbi's story coincides with Persipolis, which also follows a young coming-of-age girl with progressive parents dealing with a war--the same war--but on the opposite side. For someone who grew up completely confused by the Gulf and their leaders, this book provided me with a thorough and personal perspective of what was happening to Iraq's people. Granted, the author admits that she was privileged, but the ironic and horrific truth is this made life harder, draining, more intense, and sad.

  • Amelia
    2018-09-28 00:22

    I learned so much from this book. I really have never understood what is going on over in Iraq/Iran, but haven't really known how to find out. This book, while entertaining me, helped me understand so much about the middle east and the conflicts there. What an eye opener. People there are just like you and me! (should of already known that). I changed my rating to two stars, because towards the end of the book there is a part in which very foul language is used. I'm disappointed and not sure what to think, because she is esentially quoting someone when she uses those words, but I still don't like to read it.

  • Shelia
    2018-09-20 21:06

    Very few books have affected me like this one has. I finished it with a sad, sick feeling in my stomach. My father was in Vietnam and I heard about some of the horrors that happened there. So I thought I knew of some of the awful things going on in the world. I quickly realized that I don't have a clue. And this made me ashamed and sooo very thankful that I was born in the USA. No things are not perfect here, but close to it compared to what some have to endure and live through.This book was an eye opener for me. I can't get some of the stories out of my head. Makes me want to do something to help change things. I highly recommend it.

  • Melodie
    2018-10-17 22:05

    A true story written by the Saddam's airplane pilot's daughter. Saddam before he came into power, what life was like up in the early days up to the aftermath. This was a suggested book....thank you. I agree "a must read!"Very well written for a first book.self note: knitting mentioned briefly

  • Misha
    2018-10-05 23:25

    This woman is the daughter of the man who was Saddam Hussein's pilot, so she grew up in close contact with this sociopathic dictator. Later, she started an organization called that gives job training to women who have lost everything in war. She is AMAZING, a personal hero. You will not be able to put this book down!

  • Hhharrier
    2018-10-15 22:12

    This is one of the best, most beautifully written, memoirs that I have ever read. I couldn't put the book down. This is not the typical testosterone filled war story. If you really want to understand the sadness of war and the inhumanity of humans, you must read the books written by women. It is the only way, if there is any hope for the world, to see the insanity of it all.

  • Lbelgrove
    2018-09-29 02:31

    Great book! An easy read. I wouldn't typically pick up a book like this. My job assigned it as a summer reading book and I reluctantly started it in July. I didn't think it would pull me in as it did.

  • Kris
    2018-09-25 03:13

    A truly captivating story of a woman growing up immediately under the thumb of Saddam Hussein and her family's attempts to first shield her, then help her escape. You will never feel the same about your life again after reading her incredible story.

  • Jodielayton
    2018-10-05 00:18

    I loved this book. You get a first hand look at what it is to be in the control of Saddam.

  • Jill Pfuetze Schmidt
    2018-10-13 04:25

    Bravo. Important book. Splendid woman.

  • Justin Tapp
    2018-09-29 22:28

    I recently reviewed a host of books on the history and development of Islam and Middle Eastern history (list at bottom of this post). I also read several which included some critiques along with views to the future and reform. I then worked through a list of books by Muslim women, most of which bring light to and critique inhumane practices found in their home countries. Included in this list was Nick Kristof's Half the Sky which looks at women's rights globally, and I'm also including another by someone who left Islam after an extensive intellectual and spiritual search. This book review is in the context of all of those books as a whole. The list (some reviews forthcoming):Reform and human rights:Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali (4.5 stars)Heretic - Ayaann Hirsi Ali (4 stars)Headscarves and Hymens - Mona Eltahawy (4 stars)I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai (5 stars)I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali (4.5 stars)In the Land of Invisible Women - Qanta Ahmed (4.5 stars)Between Two Worlds - Zainab Salbi (5 stars).City of Lies - Ramita Navai (3 stars)Half the Sky - Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (4 stars)Seeking Allah Finding Jesus - Nabeel Qureshi (4.5 stars)This really is a great autobiography. It is a fascinating and intimate portrait of growing up under the watchful eye of "عمو"(uncle) Saddam Hussein, and the scars left by decisions made by Salbi and her parents who lived in his nightmarish world. It is also a portrait of women's rights and how Salbi was eventually moved to start Women for Women, a charity reaching out to rehabilitate women sexually abused in war. I first heard of Salbi's work from Nick Kristof's Half the Sky.The authors parents were not political, but got introduced to Saddam via their mostly secular, upper middle class network in Baghdad. Salbi's father is a good pilot, he becomes Saddam's personal pilot. Salbi's mother is a Shi'ia and Salbi claims Shi'ia Islam. As Saddam gains unchallenged power by murdering the former President, he consolidates power by drawing his contacts closer and pitting them against each other, a strategy of "divide and conquer" that he takes sadistic pleasure in watching. What she describes is similar to the Soviet Union or North Korea, where neighbors and family are always afraid of being spied on the Baath party required spying in order to advance. Everyone lives in fear of one another. In her case as an adolescent, youth compete for "Uncle's" affections and favor. Saddam revels in his own personality cult and celebrity. He comes making random house calls late at night, meaning all families have to be prepared to serve at all times. Saddam liked to drink. Apparently, he had his own reality TV show where these house calls were televised, along with the occasional political execution; Salbi was only nine when she saw her first live execution.Salbi is just a girl as Iraq and Iran go to war; her mother had been fond of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who her family apparently had some connection to. Salbi's parents stay married despite pressure for her father to divorce her mother, for which Sunni Iraqi men were being paid 2,000 dinar to do. Salbi learned not to pray like a Shiia, to abandon Shiia holidays (like Novruz) and the like. At one point, Saddam demands her father go to the front for a few months to prove himself as a man and a loyal Iraqi. Her parents never fled, something Salbi later has a hard time forgiving them for, and they engaged in an "abusive relationship" with the dictator. All families felt pressured to host and give gifts to "uncle," while their own poverty increased. Saddam built lavish palaces on the backs of the Iraqis. He forced them to use their grandfather's first names as a last name, changing everyone's identity overnight. In the worst of times, Zainab's mother tried to commit suicide.The author's family was one of many families who would spend long weekends and holidays at Hussein's "farm house" complex. The parents would be expected to entertain the dictator and the children would be called on to perform a piano recital or some other amusement at a moment's notice-- or sometimes "uncle" would not show up at all. There are parties there and everyone puts on a plastic face. When Salbi is 16, she and a friend were driven by Hussein to the farm compound after he made a house call when her parents were out. She learns later that she was quite fortunate not to have been a rape victim during this visit, and it was then that her parents decided they needed to get her out of the country.Saddam promoted his own relatives and uneducated countrymen to high positions, particularly in the security service. When her father faced accusations of being a traitor after a mechanical accident, he retires from his position and chooses "friendship" with "uncle" instead. Salbi describes Saddam Hussein's sadistic side, his duck hunt massacres, his massive collections and constant gifts of guns to his friends. She describes the fear of Uday's "rape palaces" and the consequences for the girls who were kidnapped by them. Most would have to be sold off or shipped out of the country quickly, their lives ruined. Yet, many young girls still fantasized about being the one that Uday actually loved. Saddam Hussein himself engaged in these acts and, late in life, after her mother has passed away, Zainab wonders whether her mother was a victim herself.When Salbi goes to college she meets the poetic Ehud, who she falls in love with and becomes intent on marrying. His family are Sunni and not wealthy or educated, nonetheless Ehud goes through a six-month security check by Saddam's forces and then the engagement begins. Once Ehud proves himself to be a crazy, abusive person, whose family believes that Shi'ia have tails, she gets out of the marriage-- a major problem for a woman in Muslim context.The author got to travel to Chicago once with her mother, and while there they made contact with a family who later asks for Zainab's hand in marriage. Her mother was anxious to get her out of the country and jumps at the chance, even though they have no idea what this man will be like. Zainab's mother raised her to be strong, educated, and independent-- never to take abuse from a man. But, under Saddam's thumb, Zainab sees her mother's spirit wear down and her parents move toward divorce. Now her mother is trying to marry her off. In the car from the airport to the prospective groom's house, Zainab's father expresses his wish not to marry her off. Zainab's mother insists she can never go back to Iraq. Later, Zainab learns that her parents saw that Saddam had been eyeing her; it was only a matter of time before he acted. But this moment where they gave her off to a total stranger would be difficult for her to forgive later, when she found out what a monster he was.Fakhri promises Zainab to be a good husband, to allow her to finish her studies, and treat her with respect. The promise vanishes on the wedding night, when Zainab experiences a long period of rape, physical, and verbal abuse. Her husband is devout Shi'ia and hates Zainab for being a "friend" of Saddam, taking out his hatred for Saddam on her instead. Her mother had taught her that sex was a gift from God, and Zainab knew verses in the Quran and hadiths that spoke of such, but for her it becomes pure abuse. His family is of no help to her. She escapes "from prison in Iraq, only to be in solitary confinement in Chicago." At the encouragement of a friend, she runs and files for divorce. She gets a job and starts a new life.It's 1991, and America is now leading a coalition against Saddam. Zainab is actually interviewed in the local paper, she assumes a different identity-- saying that she came from Iraq before the war began and was stranded in the US now that war had started. She wanted to highlight the strife the average person in Iraq was facing as the bombs were falling. Salbi leverages her fame by lining up a job working for the Ambassador to the League of Arab States. It would be a long time before she saw her parents again.Zainab meets and falls in love with Amjad Atallah (now with Al Jazeera). She learns that women have the right to write a marriage contract before the wedding, and Amjad supports this; he comes across as ideal. Her parents divorced, but she entered into a new marriage and her mother is able to come to the wedding after Amjad flies to Jordan to meet with representatives of Salbi's family to get their blessing. Zainab is finishing her studies and refuses any chance to be a spokeswoman for the Iraqi people. She hates war, hates the plight of innocent civilians. During the Balkans War, she hears of rape camps by Slobodan Milosevic, and Milosevic suddenly becomes a proxy for her hatred for Saddam. She and Amjad form Women for Women International to try and highlight the war crime and connect women abroad with women in the US who can mentor and help. It is an amazing and challenging work.But Zainab has to face her own demons, at one point attempting suicide just as her mother. She is diagnosed PTSD and eventually a psychiatrist gets her history out of her. She enters therapy and dealing with childhood. She struggles to find closure with Iraq, her parents' relationship, unanswered questions, and hates her parents for not fleeing Iraq and for her eventual abusive marriage. Zainab eventually returns to Iraq before the 2003 invasion, and back afterward to set up her charity. In this time, she gains reconciliation with her remarried father and reconnects with family. It is only then that she learns the truth of what her parents were protecting her from and is able to forgive them. Even so, she is left with many unanswered questions.I was sad to learn that Zainab and Anjad divorced after 18 years; Zainab has also stepped down from CEO of women for Women in 2011. They apparently parted on amicable terms ("a love divorce," she calls it). It makes me sad that she still faced this loss. I imagine she is horrifed to see that weaponized rape has become even more widespread under ISIS.This book is a remarkable portrait for life growing up close to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and adjustment to a new identity afterward while reconciling with the past. I give it 5 stars out of 5.A History of Islam, The Middle East, and Arab nations:A Very Short Introduction to the Koran - Michael Cook (4.5)A Very Short Introduction to Islam - Malise Ruthven (3 stars)In the The Shadow of the Sword - Tom Holland (4 stars)In God's Path - The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire - Robert G. Hoyland (4 stars)Great World Religions: Islam (The Great Courses)- John Esposito (1.5 stars)Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes - Tamim Ansary (4.5 stars)Brief History of the Middle East - Peter Mansfield (3.5 stars)History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (4.5 stars)The United States and the Middle East 1914-2001 (Great Courses) by Salim Yuqub (3.5 stars)Islam Unveiled - Robert Spencer (1.5 stars)Lawrence in Arabia - Scott Anderson (5 stars)Reform-style:Desperately Seeking Paradise - Ziauddin Sardar (5 stars)Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz - Islam and the Future of Tolerance (1.5 stars)Reza Aslan - No god but God - The Origins and Future of Islam (2.5 stars)

  • Jan
    2018-10-22 03:25

    Between Two Worlds is an autobiography. In part, it is also Salbi's tribute to her mother, a beautiful bird in an invisible cage. One thing learned in this book is that you can't leave the torments of your past behind. Healing takes time. The subtitle is Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam. Saddam was more than a shadow in her life. He was literally the house guest on her living room sofa, the hand on her shoulder, the audience at her informal piano recital, and her attentive guide to a pavilion on one of his palace lakes. Salbi's father was Saddam's personal pilot. Her knowledge of Saddam is direct or second hand from primary sources. Her descriptions of him and his methods read like a playbook for narcissistic psychopathic dictators: Take whatever you want, murder those who displease you, rape whomever you like (including vulnerable women who plead for your assistance), sow fear and distrust everywhere, use force regularly, create a personality cult, brook no refusal, keep a collection of "friends" who must respond like lap dogs to your every wish whether explicit or implied, bring war upon the earth, name infrastructure projects after yourself, forego the rule of law, employ tribal bodyguards whose loyalty is certain and reward them with sex and power, build lavish palaces, kill opposition leaders, be vainly selective with your wardrobe, violently oppress or deport any group not cut from the same cloth as you, engage in domestic spying and encourage snitching even among family members and school children, punish independent attitudes or actions no matter how small, obey no one, always follow your own inclinations, maintain a veil of dignity and respectability whenever possible, and treat your entire country as essentially your own private feeding ground.I found that I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.

  • Justin Domnitz
    2018-10-21 01:09

    This memoir by the daughter of Saddam Hussain’s personal pilot was an enlightening and disturbing read. The stories and details from the author’s privileged childhood in the Iraqi elite were fascinating. Her tales about growing up with Saddam Hussain as a family friend were especially interesting. I learned a lot about Iraq’s history that I didn’t know or only kind of knew about on the periphery. Growing up in 80s and 90s America, Iraq was always the enemy. This book is a beautiful reminder that countries and their people aren’t enemies. It’s an evil few who consolidate power and use terror to control their citizens that are truly good’s foe. It’s a hard battle to fight when those being suppressed and those attempting to liberate are forced to meet on the battlefield. The last third of the book focuses on the author’s internal struggle to overcome her personal trials and reconcile her childhood relationship with ‘uncle’ Hussain and the despot he truly was. This was less interesting for me personally, but I imagine that this would be a lot of readers’ favorite part of the book.

  • Bill Glover
    2018-09-27 23:03

    "Why did they stay? That question haunts whole generations of people from around the world whose parents tolerated the rise of dictatorship.... The most rational answer I can think of in our case was that our parents were trapped in an abusive relationship."Guess how closely Saddam Hussein's personality type, and the things he did socially, or on his own state media match up to our current "leader".Setting up a social situation for the sole purpose of shaming a 14 year-old who he thought disrespected him? Forcing folks to listen to speeches that droned on for hours? Amping up scapegoats to justify his rule? Saying one thing and then directly contradicting himself? It goes on and on.

  • Sherry Isaac
    2018-10-13 23:17

    Zainab Salbi grew up between two worlds--both of which are a universe apart from mine. Beautiful prose, candid storytelling, and some very difficult truths that are hard to imagine, harder to read about, and nearly impossible to survive, and yet, many women have and do. A story of courage, womankind, and the love between a mother and daughter--two worlds in and of themselves.