Summary and book reviews of Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni

Guest House for Young Widows

Among the Women of ISIS

by Azadeh Moaveni

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni X
Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2019, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A gripping account of thirteen women who joined, endured, and, in some cases, escaped life in the Islamic State—based on years of immersive reporting by a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Among the many books trying to understand the terrifying rise of ISIS, none has given voice to the women in the organization; but women were essential to the establishment of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's caliphate.

Responding to promises of female empowerment and social justice, and calls to aid the plight of fellow Muslims in Syria, thousands of women emigrated from the United States and Europe, Russia and Central Asia, from across North Africa and the rest of the Middle East to join the Islamic State. These were the educated daughters of diplomats, trainee doctors, teenagers with straight-A averages, as well as working-class drifters and desolate housewives, and they set up makeshift clinics and schools for the Islamic homeland they envisioned. Guest House for Young Widows charts the different ways women were recruited, inspired, or compelled to join the militants. Emma from Hamburg, Sharmeena and three high school friends from London, Nour, a religious dropout from Tunis: all found rebellion or community in political Islam and fell prey to sophisticated propaganda that promised them a cosmopolitan adventure and a chance to forge an ideal Islamic community where they could live devoutly without fear of stigma or repression.

It wasn't long before the militants exposed themselves as little more than violent criminals, more obsessed with power than the tenets of Islam, and the women of ISIS were stripped of any agency, perpetually widowed and remarried, and ultimately trapped in a brutal, lawless society. The fall of the caliphate only brought new challenges to women no state wanted to reclaim.

Moaveni's exquisite sensitivity and rigorous reporting makes these forgotten women indelible and illuminates the turbulent politics that set them on their paths.

Nour

Spring 2007, Le Kram, Tunis

After the niqab incident, Nour was suspended from school for ten days as teachers and the principal deliberated how to respond to a thirteen-year-old flirting with religion. No one summoned Nour to speak to her about why she had shown up at school wearing a niqab, or whether something was wrong at home. Nour just wanted to be virtuous, to be dutiful to her God and ensure her place in heaven; she was also an adolescent, and it made her feel alive to defy something and play around with her identity. But no one asked precisely why she felt that covering her face was her religious duty. Had they given her the chance to mention the YouTube sheikh, they might have informed her there were opposing and indeed stronger and more valid scholarly views. Instead the principal summoned Nour and her parents to the school and, in the presence of a disgusted-looking policeman, made her sign a pledge to never cover her face or hair again.

In the period that stretched from...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A riveting, in-depth study of young women who searched for purpose by joining the Islamic State (IS). Readers and book groups willing to dive into the many complex themes presented here will find provocative ideas for discussion...continued

Full Review (960 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Library Journal
A compelling read that imparts important lessons about religious extremism. Recommended for readers interested in women's issues and current affairs.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): A Brief History

ISIS Territory Map (2015) Journalist Azadeh Moaveni's Guest House for Young Widows follows thirteen young women who joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a jihadist terrorist organization and former proto-state. ISIS aims to establish a global Islamic state, with everyone living under their interpretation of Shariah law, which enforces strict guidelines regarding diet, abstinence, dress codes, marriage, gender roles, prayer, and more. During the past decade, the group has killed thousands in its quest to conquer the world, generating international outrage among people of all faiths, including Muslims. Islam is not by its nature a religion of violence, and most Muslims decry ISIS for its practice of suicide bombing and its willingness to kill ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Azadeh Moaveni

If you liked Guest House for Young Widows, try these:

  • The Pianist from Syria jacket

    The Pianist from Syria

    by Aeham Ahmad

    Published 2021

    About this book

    An astonishing but true account of a pianist's escape from war-torn Syria to Germany offers a deeply personal perspective on the most devastating refugee crisis of this century.

  • The Spymaster of Baghdad jacket

    The Spymaster of Baghdad

    by Margaret Coker

    Published 2021

    About this book

    From the former New York Times bureau chief in Baghdad comes the gripping and heroic story of an elite, top-secret team of unlikely spies who triumphed over ISIS.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Code Breaker
    The Code Breaker
    by Walter Isaacson
    What makes humans human? It's a mystery that has inspired philosophers and driven scientific ...
  • Book Jacket: Genesis
    Genesis
    by Guido Tonelli
    Popular science books represent an important niche in non-fiction. They build a bridge between ...
  • Book Jacket: Buses Are a Comin'
    Buses Are a Comin'
    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker
    Charles Person was just 18 years old in 1961 when he became the youngest of the first wave of '...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Of Women and Salt
by Gabriela Garcia
A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Who Said...

A book is one of the most patient of all man's inventions.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.