Woman At Point Zero

There are some books that are must reads because the writing is irresistible and the point of the book is besides the point because you just want to get lost in the sentences that are perfectly and beautifully structured. Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi is not one of those books.  Woman At Point Zero is a must read because the story itself, bluntly told, is too important to ignore.  Nasal El Saadawi recounts the life of Firdaus as told to her the night before Firdaus was executed for murder and the story that follows is horrifying and awe-inspiring.

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Going into the story with the knowledge that Firdaus could, and from the sounds of it would, receive a pardon should she ask for it but is refusing to, kicks off the book with the reader and Nasal El Saadawi asking why?  A lifetime of abuse and dashed hopes later left me shell shocked and in awe of Firdaus’s strength and calm in the face of disappointing truths.  Firdaus, via Nasal El Saadawi, tells her story in a matter of fact way that often makes the sexual abuse from all of the men in her life seem as regular and normal as making coffee in the morning.  This adds to the shock value of the story she’s telling, but also, at a certain point, numbs the reader to the abuse.  By virtue of her story it is easy to come to the same conclusions about men that she does including but not limited to,”All women are victims of deception. Men impose deception on women and punish them for being deceived, force them down to the lowest level and punish them for falling so low, bind them in marriage and then chastise them with menial service for life, or insults, or blows.”

It would be interesting to read this book and Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World And Me together and study their ideas on the value of a body and what it means to be free. Firdaus was most safe when she was prostituting herself out and dictating how much she was worth, rather than letting men dictate her worth for her.  As she says, “How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and my self became really mine, to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I tore my body and my self away from the people who held me in their grasp since the very first day?”  Finding freedom in jail and execution seems backward until reading the story that got her there.  Now almost everything else seems very obviously backward but her decision to remain in jail and on track for execution seems like one of the most respectable and brave decisions she could have made.

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