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Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph Over Violence

ISBN: 978-1-56656-735-0
By: Rania Al-Baz
Review by: Melissa Flicek Doffing


Disfigured is the memoir of Rania Al-Baz: star television reporter, mother, wife, daughter, sister, international icon for ending violence against women. It is a quick read the honest, straight-forward yet poetic voice of Al-Baz propels the reader through the book. Her story is one that women everywhere can relate to on some level.

The book opens with a pivotal moment in her life. Her abusive, jealous husband beats her almost to death. Afterwards, he panics, dumps her body in front of a hospital and goes into hiding. Al-Baz shares with her readers the trauma of her physical and emotional recovery. Against the odds, she lives and finds a greater purpose to her life. Her public persona lands her in the spotlight; a photograph of her beaten face causes outrage and spurs change for women in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Baz then takes us back through her life. We see her journey from a young girl into a strong woman. Always rebellious, her young spirit was constrained by cultural norms, traditional family roles and violent men. Before her 29th birthday she was married, divorced, remarried and a mother three times over. She also suffered from epileptic seizures, depression and bouts of utter boredom. She attended university and landed herself a job as a young, female television reporter. Her life was simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary.

Al-Baz examines the intersection of the personal and political as she weaves the story of her life and her country together. Careful to stay true to her belief in Islam and Saudi Arabia, she takes a stand against violence and discrimination against women. A horrific event that caps off years of rather traumatic occurrences in her life could have caused Al-Baz to give up. In the end, it propels her to pursue a purpose larger than herself, her family, her country or her religion. She is a voice from the Middle East, denouncing Western stereotypes and unearthing the reality of her culture.

Al-Baz closes her powerful book with this sentence: "Wherever their [her sisters] path may lead them, they will always remember what I have done. "

Not only will her sisters remember what she has done, but the world will never forget her story. She stands as a beacon of courage and hope to women in desperate circumstances all over the world. She is a woman, a survivor, a leader.

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