One of my reading goal for 2017 is to read more nonfiction about women’s lives. So when I saw that NetGalley had this book, I decided to request it.
I knew nothing about Manal al-Sharif before I picked up this book. I knew nothing about the lives of women in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I even had to look on a map to find Saudi Arabia. But this is a book that will stick with me because of the extent to which it opened my eyes.
Manal’s story begins with her arrest for driving a car, an activity that, although not illegal, is something that women are not allowed to do. It then jumps back to her life growing up in Saudi Arabia, her family, her education, her job, her marriage and motherhood. Throughout her story, the necessary dependence of a woman on her husband or male relatives is clearly demonstrated, and the details are astonishing to many of us who know the freedoms of life in Canada. A woman is not allowed to be alone with a man, to the extreme that a male paramedic is unable to enter the home of a woman who is alone to administer medical care, and a woman in labor is not allowed to go to a hospital by herself. At times, it was hard to absorb the limitations placed on women in 2017, and I found it eye-opening and sobering.
Manal went to jail for her disobedience, and though she was eventually released, her life was drastically changed by her activism. Her campaign for Women2Drive, and to push for the right for women to drive, made international headlines, but ultimately resulted in her choosing to leave the country. She paid a high price for actions, but paved the way for women to follow and continue the fight.
I appreciate Manal’s candor and honesty, and feel better educated about the lives of women in Saudi Arabia after reading her story.