I’m a member of what I’ve creatively dubbed “Old People’s Book Club” here at the little college where I work. Every member of the club is older than me by at least three decades. There are a few who are glad to regale me with stories from WWII.

Mostly they think I’m ridiculous OR a novelty, or both. It doesn’t help that they pick a ton of political books to read and discuss and that my own leanings are kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum from most of theirs. Any time I say something they don’t agree with they all cluck approvingly, pat me on the arm, and continue with their conversation, as if I said something adorably inappropriate (like a three year old who tries out a new curse word). It’s awesome.

We just finished reading Growing Up Bin Laden, a memoir sanctioned by Osama’s fourth (favored) son, who broke from his father in 2010, and his mother, Osama’s first wife, who separated from her husband just a few days before 9/11. Old people timing was truly impeccable, as our book club met only days after the reported death of Osama Bin Laden.

Man review: If you’re a history or political buff, this might interest you.

Lady review: Sister wives finally make sense. Also…

I was fascinated by this one. There’s almost nothing about Bin Laden’s militant activities in the book. Nearly all of the narration revolves around what it was like to be a son and wife of Bin Laden. The entire family lived in seclusion, with the wives confined to a few rooms for their entire adult lives. Because of their isolated state, the immediate family members knew very little of what was going on outside the walls of their home. What little they did know was awash with extreme amounts of propaganda.What was fascinating was reading about the devolution of private family life and realizing how closely it paralleled what I know about Osama’s increased dedication to public, terroristic jihad (which was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the book).

There were a few excellent tidbits that stood apart from an already interesting story. A major one was the son’s gradual break from the violent life his father wished for him, and his eventual escape from his family’s seclusion. To follow along as someone’s credo fundamentally changes is always sort of breathtaking, at times. It really gave me food for thought, especially in terms of the nature/nurture debate. Here’s a guy who had ever reason to grow into being a monster, but he didn’t. Another great piece of the story was the wife’s ability to narrate a ridiculously difficult life without complaining about anything or condemning anyone. Truly a feat, considering some of the stuff she went through. I don’t believe she ever says a negative word, which just baffled me.

A side point of interest was the fact that here was a situation where the whole sister wife thing seemed to work out pretty well. Don’t see a lot of that these days, with the Fundamentalist sects and the HBO specials and whatnot. I was intrigued with a lifestyle where sister wives would be a real boon to a woman, instead of a distraction, interruption, or point of contention.

Overall, Growing Up Bin Laden was a fascinating book. I’d recommend a read if you can get your hands on a copy. It was definitely worth my time.

Growing Up Bin Laden
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