I just read two memoirs written by African women. Infidel by Ayaan Hirisi Ali and Unbowed by Wangari Maathai.

Infidel is the story of Somali-born Ayaan Hirisi Ali. Her father was part of the resistance fighting against the Somali dictator and her childhood found her moving at various times to Saudi Arabia and Kenya. Her book focuses on the damage done to people by ethnic and tribal conflicts and the denial of women’s rights including genital mutilation. She does a good job of explaining to a Western audience why Somalis feel the way they do about many issues. She eventually was accepted as a refugee in Holland and became a translator in the refugee camps. Here she learned even more about the plight of Somali women. She became a Member of Parliament. But she started receiving death threats for her outspoken anti-Muslim views. She wrote a 10-minute film called “Submission, Part 1” to voice some of the ways the Koran is used to abuse women. A women in a translucent burka is the narrator. She wanted Allah to have to face what he had made – the body of a woman. The women in the film are covered in the verses from the Koran that speak to their situation. The director of the film was killed and a death threat to her was attached to his corpse. Eventually she had to leave Holland because of the threats of violence and now lives in the U.S.

You can watch “Submission, Part 1” here.

Unbowed is the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. She founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. This group plants trees to try to undo some of the environmental damage done by deforestation. She ties together the roles environmental destruction and govermental corruption play in poverty in Africa. In the last 30 years she has been beaten and jailed for her attempts to keep the government from giving away public land and for protesting for the release of political prisoners.