Reflection #2— “Infidel” (ch. 5–7)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s bestseller kicks off into “full swing” in chapters five through seven. Rather than talk about facts pertaining to history and dates, Ayaan starts to delve deeper into the personalities and characteristics of both her family and certain groups of people. In these chapters Ayaan drops the cold and distant descriptions of actions and reactions, and exchanges them with detailed and vivid motives for these events and how they took place. I speculate this may be because around the time these chapters take place, Ayaan begins to start functioning as a conscious human being rather than a mindless infant, but it is also possible that she is doing this to show the reader that characters can be portrayed through different lenses. Regardless of purpose though, Ayaan succeeds in bringing life to mere names on paper, which in turn has made me feel more invested and interested in the novel.

(Really loving this book, and yes, I have indeed bookmarked it with Pokemon cards. I am only slightly ashamed)

As previously stated, Ayaan starts to add depth and detail to the events that transpire and the people that appear throughout chapters five and seven. One of these more flushed out characters is her father, Abdellahi Yusuf, who has become my favorite character. In the first four chapters he is simply described as an imprisoned man who decended from the Omar Mahamud, but later on Ayaan describes Abdellahi, or Abeh for short, as a dark skinned Somoli man who moved to America as a young man for his education and returned to fight against the Somalian dictator Siad Barre. I have taken to Abeh primarily because he represents western ideals that I also share, such as the desire for a democratic government and the family unit. It is also hard to not connect with Abeh, because most of chapter five is about him and his decisions, which in turn affect Ayaan and her life.

As for the events that transpire during these chapters, there is only one way to describe them, and that is as repetitious. After Ayaan and her mother move out of Somolia it seems as if a never ending chain is created. It started off with them moving to Saudi Arabia and meeting up with Ayaans father to live together as a family, but after a year or so they were kicked out of the country due to Abeh’s ties with the political movement against Siad Barre. After getting kicked out of Saudi Arabia they eventually end up moving to Ethiopia where, again after another year, they leave due to unsavory living conditions for a family. After leaving Ethiopia, Abeh decides to leave his family in Kenya for an extended amount of time while he continues to work in Ethiopia against the Somali government. And eventually after several years in Kenya, Ayaan moves back to Somalia for work. I think this repetition plays a big part in laying down a canvas for analysis to be painted on. Through each and every one of her experiences, Ayaan describes the people, beliefs, and governments in a very similar manor, allowing me to compare and contrast the kind and laid back Kenyans, to the old fashioned and starving Somalians, to the pious and strict Saudis.

Another key element that plays a part in chapters six and seven is the ongoing theme of rebellion. Adults beating Ayaan for her disobedience became a common occurrence, with her mother beating her for failing to follow orders and her religious teacher beating her for failing to complete remembrance tasks and religious studies. Ayaan also describes how she was losing herself in the confusing contradictions of Islam, and how during this confusing time in her life she became so desperate that at one point she wanted to die. This left me wondering how Ayaan was going to address the oppression she felt coming from Islamic law, but eventually she simply attempts to embrace Islam even more when she moves back to Somalia.