Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel is One of the Most Important Books I’ve Ever Read

infidelWell after my discussion of freedom of speech and censorship, I could not speak of a more important book. No not just important- but IMPORTANT (in caps!)

I don’t really read bios as a rule- I read a famous one earlier this year and just shrugged my shoulders at it. But this- this was different.

To say Ayaan Hirsi Ali is remarkable is an understatement. For those of you that do not know who Ayaan Hirsi Ali is I would describe her thus: a refugee, an intellectual and a former member of the Dutch parliament. Above all, she stands up for freedom of speech- at great personal risk- if you don’t know who she is, you should check her out. I’d say she is one of the most important people in the world.

Now, if you have ever heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak you will know she is softly spoken- but at the same time delivers hammer blows of world shaking magnitude in what she says. This book is written in the same lyrical style. Though it took some time to get into, once I did, I found it was completely absorbing and compelling- I was obsessed with it. It was one of the most addictive of books I have ever read.

As for the content, the abuse she suffered is horrifying, but this is in no way a despairing work. It is a book about finding your courage. As I have already said, Ayaan Hirsi Ali being is an admirable woman and dare I say it, she is one of the most courageous women that has ever lived.

I cannot shy away from how controversial people find this book- yet I have to share it- I cannot hide from my own mind and fail to talk of something of this magnitude. This is a book for anyone who believes in free speech. It is to society’s shame that it is radical to support a woman who stands up for civil rights, women’s rights and freedom of speech. It is up those of us who feel otherwise to raise our voices when we can against this outrage.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Are you a fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Let me know in the comments!

Reading Between the Lines Is Not A Thing

*Warning: I’m talking about one of my biggest pet peeves- this may get ranty*

Hi all! So I’m gonna start by laying all my cards on the table. In my last post I admitted to committing the cardinal reading sin of just assuming a character was gay. While this is a somewhat popular theory around the book, I didn’t bother to back up my point, cos I know that while I was reading this was something that I just felt rather than based on any textual logic. Admittedly we all do this from time to time- and as long as we accept that these are fanfic-y assumptions we have made and not actual facts, we can all go along with our lives quite swimmingly.

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The problem, for me, arises when people present what is actually a very flimsy opinion as fact. I cannot tell you how many times someone has said “well I just think so-and-so was secretly in love with so-and-so” and when I ask for evidence of this they just say “read between the lines!”

No, just no. That is not how analysis works. I’m gonna come right out and say this: there is no such thing as reading between the lines. I mean if you step back and think about it, what is actually in the blank space between the lines, except maybe a few scrawled notes we may have made? (yes I’m guilty of writing in books- it’s not sacrilege if you’ve ever been an English Lit student!) As self-referential as we may like to be, it is hardly good academic practice to say: “well I think so-and-so was in love with so-and-so- because that’s what I wrote in my notes!” Good analysis actually requires going back to the source material and showing that this is the case.

Remember what your primary school teacher said about how, when you construct an argument, “you can say anything as long as you can back it up”. Well- we need to go back to that- with an emphasis on that last part! Because at some point, when you make a claim, someone will say “prove it”.

More than that, we need to remember that sometimes the evidence is weighted in the other direction and an interpretation can be wrong. Because sometimes, someone can show evidence to the contrary that fits the story better. And also, to be absolutely clear, the absence of evidence is not evidence! (No matter how hard someone tries to convince me that, say, Mr Rochester is a zombie, I’m guessing that I will remain unconvinced). It’s obviously fine to have parallel convictions about what a book means, but sometimes opinions contradict each other and- this may come as a shock to some people- only one person is right.

And that’s a good thing- that’s the whole purpose of debate! We are actually trying to reach some sort of conclusion! When someone says: “I don’t agree with that interpretation, where’s the evidence for that?” it’s ridiculous to just throw up your hands and say “read between the lines!” Because that is not an argument. And if you say that, don’t expect me to take you seriously.

Okay- phew- glad to get that off my chest! What do you think? Are you open to more vague interpretations or are you more finicky about these things like me? And do you have any reading pet peeves that make your blood boil?