WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui, by Deborah Scroggins – Harper/HarperCollinsPublishers New York, NY Copyright © 2012 by Deborah Scroggins.
A review by Bill Dahl
A Legitimate Pulitzer Prize Candidate:
When I received my copy for review – the title and cover made me skeptical…but…I started reading…then – I couldn’t out it down.
This book is unique and profoundly distinctive in so many ways. The following are noteworthy:
a) Deborah Scroggins spent 6 years on this project.
b) Initially, I viewed the structure of the book as a gamble – alternating chapters for Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui – I came to absolutely adore it.
c) The author had never interviewed either woman directly during the research and writing of the book. Yet, the tertiary sources Scroggins plied to obtain the pertinent material are both comprehensive and intimate – providing the reader with the ability to become acutely familiar with each subject.
d) You can’t write a book like this without placing your personal safety and welfare in jeopardy (no matter what the author says).
This work has it all: religion, women’s rights, equality, terrorists, murder, birth, faith development, human development, intrigue, political intrigue, Somalia, the war on terror, the disconnect between the west and the rest, family relations, refugees, terrorism, suicide bombings, contradiction, lies, deception, death, Africa, immigration, racism, Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, abductions, prejudice, divorce, intolerance, relationships, misunderstanding, certainty, fundamentalism, Judaism, Pakistan, charisma, injustice, finance, bodyguards, assassinations, court proceedings, mental health issues, separation, The U.S., extremism, the media, anarchy, survival, irrationality, mystery, children, misperception, military engagement, war, genocide, foreign policy, Iran, Iraq, the oppressed, poverty, affluence, the pursuit of personal achievement, strategic international relations, CIA, FBI, ISI, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Daniel Pearl – and running for your life…whatever that may mean.
In the absence of such an incredibly gifted investigative journalist/author (Deborah Scroggins) – this book might have easily become a mediocre mess. I garnered a deep appreciation for both the writing and storytelling skill of Scroggins, as well as the unimaginable perseverance she aptly displays – crafting a page-turning, insightful examination of the intersection where the issues I enumerate above collide…in the lives of real people…today. She lets the story speak for itself (if there really is such a thing). The voice Scroggins equips the two central characters with is a feast for the reader. The manner in which she shares this story is so terribly poignant and powerful yet, unequivocally uniquely creative – causes the reader to become curious, engaged, concerned, educated, perplexed, angry — to ponder deeply — and arrive at a place where one understands just how much difficult work we have yet to accomplish — in directly addressing the innumerable challenges, contradictions and life shaping/threatening conditions WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui so cogently illuminates.
Today, as a species, in our current historical epoch, homo-sapiens (that’d be us) – particularly those who are sufficiently fortunate to be free from worry about survival on a daily basis – also seem to have acquired another peculiar tendency this book illuminated for me. It’s epistemological self-righteousness – We humans have an infernal capacity to come to believe what we think we know is both adequate and sufficient. As Princeton research psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Dan Kahneman has said in his most recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow – we develop the tendency to think What You See Is All There Is. Kahneman writes: “At work here is that powerful WYSIATI rule: You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you believe it.”[i] Kahneman refers to this as “pretended knowledge” – a phenomenon very apparent in the lives of both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui…and our world.
As any superlative literary work of non-fiction requires Deborah Scroggins’ WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui leaves the reader with the veil epistemological modesty firmly affixed to ones’ heart and soul. Yet, the work clearly defines the challenges ahead, prompting the essential dialog required to re-think our current beliefs, policies, practices and past approaches to the ongoing, unresolved issues so vividly and persuasively illuminated by this book. There’s vastly more import to this work than your what you see is all there is mechanism might suggest.
Like I said…a legitimate Pulitzer Prize candidate. Believe it!