Between Two Worlds: Escaping from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam

Zainab Salbi, Author, Laurie Becklund, Author . Gotham $26 (295p) ISBN 978-1-59240-156-7

The question "why did they stay?" haunts this engrossing memoir, as Salbi shows how Saddam Hussein "managed to make decent people like [her] parents complicit in their own oppression." "Growing up in Baghdad," the author remembers, "was probably not unlike growing up in an American suburb," but then Salbi's father became Saddam's private pilot. Gradually, the man who treated her like a niece became a man she called " 'Amo' [Uncle] not out of affection, but because I was afraid to say his name—Saddam Hussein —out loud." Interspersed with Salbi's memories are her mother's recollections of imposed visits from and disquieting parties with Saddam. These riveting passages reveal a self-absorbed man who, as Salbi comes to understand, "saw no conflict between feeling fondness for people and killing them." Making a physical escape from Iraq was easy—a marriage was arranged in the U.S. to an abusive husband (from whom Salbi also had to escape)—compared with making the new life that culminated in founding Women for Women International, an organization that assists women victimized by war. Books to come will offer more historical and statistical data, but this may be the most honest account of life within Saddam's circle so far; not a rebel's account, although Salbi is certainly a dissident, rather, it's an enlightening revelation of how, by barely perceptible stages, decent people make accommodations in a horrific regime. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/18/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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