Jean Sasson’s Mayada: Daughter of Iraq

I’m one of those people who would any day prefer a work of fiction over non-fiction. Any day. So, when I pick up a non-fiction book it just has to be amazing. And one of the few times that I did, it ended up being more – way more. That book was Jean Sasson’s Mayada: Daughter of Iraq.

I happened to find out about this book when I was spending one of my summer vacations at my grandparents’ place in Kerala, and was reading an edition of Readers’ Digest which featured (if I remember right – this was over 15 years ago) an excerpt of her story.

When I finally got down to reading it, it hit me on so many levels. The story is about Mayada Al-Askari, a woman who helped the author when she was on a trip to Baghdad, as her translator. Hailing from a wealthy and distinguished family, Mayada led a privileged life, till Saddam Hussein came to power.

From there, her life hurtled downward. She was soon imprisoned and locked away on charges that she was making pamphlets that were against the regime. Her life in the cell that shared with other women who were in the same situation as her, have been documented in Mayada. In fact, Mayada’s treatment is somewhat better than what most of her cellmates were subjected to.

The only thought or impression that I can give, without worrying about doing justice to this book is that this is not an easy read. It’s quite gut-wrenching. It’s a retelling of the power and sanctity of a sisterhood that forms in the most unlikely circumstances.

The book takes you through it all with these women. And that’s not easy. But nevertheless, it happened – to them. Reading a book like this does take quite a bit out of you, but it is completely worth it. I really can’t say more, because this is one book that has to be read and experienced.

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