Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz

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Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz

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Buy Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A clear and very readable account of the attack on a news presenter by her husband. It made world headlines and left her in a coma, but highlighted the plight of many Saudi women. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Arris Books
ISBN: 978-1844370757

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Throughout her life Rania Al-Baz has been an unusual woman. She was married off by her father when she was still at school to a man she hardly knew and was the only married pupil, forced to conform to the Saudi Arabian traditions of putting her husband first in all things but still expected to keep up with her school work. Pregnancy forced her to give up on her schooling but the marriage failed and Rania returned to her father. It might have been expected that she would fade quietly into the home, but in a most unusual step she became the smiling face on a Saudi television programme. No woman had ever been a news anchor before and it was only to be expected that there would be plenty of men wanting to marry her.

If the first choice of a husband had been a poor one, the second was to be a disaster. Rachid was of African descent, a singer and – something which didn't become obvious to Rania until it was too late to reconsider – divorced with children of his own. He was also viciously jealous and one day he beat Rania into a coma and left her for dead on the steps of a hospital. Thirteen operations were required to reconstruct her face. Disfigured is the story not just of the background to the news story that went round the world, but of her life in Saudi Arabia and her evolution into an activist for women.

This book is a delight to read. Rania has a clear voice and firm convictions. Despite what Rachid did to her she didn't want him humiliated as that would reflect on their children. She has courage too – used to being the first in many unconventional circumstances she took the brave decision to allow the press to photograph her injuries. Whilst this placed her in the spotlight it also illuminated the plight of many Saudi women who are abused in their own homes but required, but tradition, to be silent about it.

The most compelling facet of the book is that Rania is not against Saudi Arabian traditions and stresses the benefits of many of them. She's not unhappy to wear a veil and reacts strongly against a situation where security staff had been comparing women's photos. It gave her no pleasure to be described as the prettiest, just offence that she'd been placed in that position. She doesn't seek western freedoms for women in the country – there's never a suggestion that she would want the sexual freedom available in the west – but she does want women to have control over their own destinies.

She stresses too that law and tradition in Saudi Arabia does not condone violence against women and was prepared to allow herself to be photographed despite being a physically modest woman. Throughout the book I was impressed by the way that she simply persisted in being what she was, despite the difficulties she encountered. At the end I knew a lot more about Saudi Arabia and had a deep respect for Rania al-Baz.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more on domestic violence we can recommend Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like by Rosalind Penfold.

Buy Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz at Amazon.com.

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