Guest House for Young Widows
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION AND THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE.
A GUARDIAN AND OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR.
An intimate, deeply reported account of the women who made a shocking decision: to leave their comfortable lives behind and join the Islamic State.
In early 2014, the Islamic State clinched its control of Raqqa in Syria. Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, urged Muslims around the world to come join the caliphate. Having witnessed the brutal oppression of the Assad regime in Syria, and moved to fight for justice, thousands of men and women heeded his call.
At the heart of this story is a cast of unforgettable young women who responded. Emma, from Germany; Sharmeena, from Bethnal Green, London; Nour, from Tunis: these were women – some still in school – from urban families, some with university degrees and bookshelves filled with novels by Jane Austen and Dan Brown; many with cosmopolitan dreams of travel and adventure. But instead of finding a land of justice and piety, they found themselves trapped within the most brutal terrorist regime of the twenty-first century, a world of chaos and upheaval and violence.
What is the line between victim and collaborator? How do we judge these women who both suffered and inflicted intense pain? What role is there for Muslim women in the West? In what is bound to be a modern classic of narrative nonfiction, Moaveni takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s OB/GYN and its ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ – where wives of the fallen waited to be remarried – to demonstrate that the problem called terrorism is a far more complex, political, and deeply relatable one than we generally admit.
Praise for Lipstick Jihad: '[The] sense of being an outsider in two worlds may have made daily life difficult for Ms. Moaveni, but it also makes her a wonderfully acute observer, someone keenly attuned not only to the differences between American and Iranian cultures, but also to the ironies and contradictions of life today in Tehran.' * Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times * Praise for Iran Awakening: 'A moving portrait of a life lived in truth.' * The New York Times Book Review * Praise for Honeymoon in Tehran: 'Honeymoon in Tehran is a timely, well-written, and intimate exploration of the soul of Iran. With an eye for detail and a feel for her subject matter, Moaveni has brought to life a country that is at once immensely important to the West and deeply misunderstood. Honest, perceptive, and nuanced, this tale of love and anguish in the Islamic Republic is brimming with poignant political insights. This book will enchant and educate.' * Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival: how conflicts within Islam will shape the future * 'Moaveni's prose charges Guest House for Young Widows with elegance, immediacy and occasional caustic humour ... this book complicates our simplistic view of the jihadi bride by pulling back the curtain to tell a story that we almost never hear.' -- Brendan Daly * The Sunday Business Post * 'The book is a ripping yarn and has been named one of The New York Times' top 100 books of 2019. It provides a fascinating insight into the complex realities at play for those drawn to the fight.' -- Kerrie O'Brien * The Age * '[A] clear-eyed exploration.' -- Geordie Williamson * The Weekend Australian * 'An incredibly detailed piece of journalistic research ... It's genius.' -- Baillie Gifford Prize podcast 'Moaveni's book presents a survey of an unexplored landscape, tracking women's routes towards Syria ... it is written with a lightness of touch that doesn't evade the complexity of its topic.' * Sisterhood * 'This narrative nonfiction is written as a pastiche of sorts, vividly painting a picture of the journeys many Muslim women followed during their interactions with ISIS ... a cohesive and engaging story.' -- Aisling Philippa * Lip * 'Masterly ... Moaveni offers sophisticated political analysis, a poet's sensibility, a shrewd and intuitive awareness of nuance and ambiguity.' -- Kevin O'Sullivan * Irish Examiner * 'Forensic yet empathetic ... Always nuanced, Azadeh tears up the caricature of psychopaths unfazed by beheadings, and paints a more comprehensible portrait of culturally dislocated girls won over by recruiters who knew exactly which buttons to press.' -- Dani Garavelli * The Herald * 'Azadeh Moaveni has achieved a feat of reporting to provide a rare glimpse into the private lives of these ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Brave, visceral, moving; essential reading for anyone seeking to understand so much of the violence in our troubled world.' -- Ben Rawlence, author of City of Thorns 'Brilliantly provocative and genuinely eye-opening ... It is truly fascinating as well as being an incredibly well-written work of narrative nonfiction.' -- Alison Huber * Readings * 'Peeling back layers of gender, Islamophobia, faith, loyalty, and socialisation, Moaveni situates the women's stories within the larger historical and sociopolitical context of the time. Following 13 women in total, Guest House for Young Widows is an ambitious attempt to understand the attraction of ISIS for many disaffected youth who were ready to believe.' -- Laura Chanoux * Booklist * 'Azadeh Moaveni offers what is sure to become a modern classic, answering the question of how Muslim women become, as the Western media puts it, "radicalised" ... Moaveni not only provides granular views of particular women as they navigate this sociopolitical minefield but also situates these stories in a broader cultural context, rendering them legible in compelling ways ... I couldn't put the book down.' -- Kelly Blewett * BookPage * 'What an extraordinary subject and what an extraordinary writer. This book will stun people ... It takes you somewhere you've never been before ... She writes wonderfully clearly and reveals these lives and these stories in all their complexities ... An incredibly important book.' -- Frances Wilson, Baillie Gifford Prize Judge 'Eloquent, empathetic, insightful - and essential reading. A book chief international correspondent goes beyond slogans and stereotypes on a journey into a world we know too little about, in an attempt to understand young women whose stories startle and sadden.' -- Lyse Doucet, BBC chief international correspondent 'In this searing investigation, Moaveni explores the phenomenon of Muslim women - many of them educated, successful, and outwardly Westernised - choosing to travel to Syria in support of jihad ... In concise, visceral vignettes, Moaveni immerses her readers in a milieu saturated with the romantic appeal of violence. The result is a journalistic tour de force that lays bare the inner lives, motivations, and aspirations of her subjects.' STARRED REVIEW * Publishers Weekly * 'An insightful read on our ideas of disconnection and displacement in society, terrorism and how religion and ideology preys upon the vulnerable.' -- NJ McGarrigle * The Irish Times * 'Guest House is a painstaking piece of investigative reporting that should be compulsory reading for Western politicians.' -- Joe Lateu and Peter Whittaker * New Internationalist * 'Azadeh Moaveni has achieved a feat of reporting to provide a rare glimpse into the private lives of these ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Brave, visceral, moving; essential reading for anyone seeking to understand so much of the violence in our troubled world.' -- Ben Rawlence, author of City of Thorns 'Extraordinary ... In Guest House for Young Widows Azadeh Moaveni draws not only on her talents as a storyteller but also on her ability to empathise with the struggles and desires of a diverse range of women.' -- Joanna Bourke * Literary Review * 'Moaveni humanises her subjects - 13 women who joined IS from Europe and the Middle East - through skillful storytelling and novelistic intimacy.' -- Kawther Alfasi * Prospect * 'Guest House for Young Widows combines sympathy with skepticism ... Azadeh Moaveni illuminates these women's stories without justifying their actions and demands the same clear-eyed understanding from readers.' -- Nabeelah Jaffer * TLS * 'Fascinating ... This penetrating account holds vital lessons for the west's failed counter-terrorism policy.' -- Erika Solomon * Financial Times * 'It's a fascinating, clear-eyed examination of what really drove a handful of women, including a small group of British schoolgirls, to move to Syria and join the jihad.' -- Gaby Hinsliff * The Guardian * 'The debate badly needs an injection of sanity. Happily, Azadeh Moaveni's Guest House for Young Widows ... provides some perspective ... Moaveni makes several pertinent points.' -- Louise Callaghan * The Sunday Times * 'Moaveni has done her research (she spent decades as a reporter across the region) and the stories feel accurate ... Most of these Isis brides still languish in camps across the Middle East, waiting for their home countries to decide their fates. For those interested in understanding them, this book is essential reading.' -- Martha Gill * The Times * 'Guest House for Young Widows brilliantly illuminates the transnational lives and choices of women who joined Isis. Resting on interviews across Europe and the Middle East, it subtly, carefully explains how such women took the path they did.' -- Julia Lovell * The Observer * 'Azadeh Moaveni has written a powerful, indispensable book on a challenging subject: the inner lives and motivations of women who joined or supported the Islamic State militant group. It is a great read, digestible and almost novelistic, but it is much more than that. Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIStackles many taboos that have hampered clear-eyed discussion of Islamist extremism in general and ISIS in particular. The book provides an illuminating, much-needed corrective to stock narratives, not only about the group that deliberately and deftly terrified officials and publics across the world, but also about the larger 'war on terror' and the often ineffective, even counterproductive policies of Western and Middle Eastern governments.' -- Anne Barnard * New York Times * 'A skilful, sensitive report ... Superb.' -- Rafia Zakaria * The Guardian *
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