It is the true story of a ten-year-old Yemeni girl named Nujood. The story takes place in a rustic village called Khardji, Yemen. Khardji is so small and remote that it does not make it onto most maps of the country. Nujood was a fun-loving, free-spirited ten-year-old, who loved school and drawing with her colored pencils.
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ISBN: Nujood, a Modern-Day Heroine Once upon a time there was a magical land with legends as astonishing as its houses, which are adorned with such delicate tracery that they look like gingerbread cottages trimmed with icing. A land steeped in a thousand years of history, where adobe turrets perch on the peaks of serried mountains. A land where the scent of incense wafts gaily around the corners of the narrow cobblestone streets.
This country is called Yemen. But a very long time ago, grown- ups gave it another name: Arabia Felix, Happy Arabia. For Yemen inspires dreams. It is the realm of the Queen of Sheba, an incredibly strong and beautiful woman who inflamed the heart of King Solomon and left her mark in the sacred pages of the Bible and the Koran.
It is a mysterious place where men never appear in public without curved daggers worn proudly at their waists, while women hide their charms behind thick black veils. It is a land that lies along an ancient trade route, a country crossed by merchant caravans laden with fine fabrics, cinnamon, and other aromatic spices.
These caravans journeyed on for weeks, sometimes months, never stopping, persevering through wind and rain, and the weakest travelers, the stories say, never came home again. Out there, in those tempestuous seas, pirates from many lands lie in wait for merchant ships plying their trades in India, Africa, Europe, and America.
In centuries past, many invaders succumbed to the temptation to claim this lovely land for themselves. Ethiopians came ashore armed with their bows and arrows, but were swiftly driven away. Next came the Persians, with their bushy eyebrows, who constructed canals and fortresses and recruited various native tribes to fight off other invaders.
The Portuguese then tried their luck, and set up trading outposts. The Ottomans, who later took up the challenge, held sway in the country for more than a hundred years. Still later, the British, with their white skin, put into port in the south, in Aden, while the Turks set up shop in the north. And then, once the English were gone, Russians from colder climes set their sights upon the south.
Like a cake fought over by greedy children, the country gradually split in two. Grown- ups say that this Arabia Felix has always been the object of envious desire because of its thousand and one treasures. Foreigners covet its oil; its honey is worth its weight in gold; the music of Yemen is captivating, its poetry gentle and refined, its spicy cuisine endlessly pleasing. From around the world, archeologists come to this country to study the architecture of its ruins.
Unified in , the nation still suffers from the wounds left by these many conflicts, like a sick old man, trying to get well, who has lost his bearings and must learn to walk again. Sometimes you even wonder who makes the law in this strange land, where many girls and boys beg in the streets instead of going to school.
And in Yemeni homes, of course, the real law is laid down by fathers and older brothers. It was in this extraordinary and turbulent country, barely ten years ago, that a little girl named Nujood was born. A tiny wisp of a thing, Nujood is neither a queen nor a princess. She is a normal girl with parents and plenty of brothers and sisters. Like all children her age, she loves to play hide-and-seek and adores chocolate.
She likes to make colored drawings and fantasizes about being a sea turtle, because she has never seen the ocean. When she smiles, a tiny dimple appears in her left cheek. One cold and gray February evening in , however, that appealing and mischievous grin suddenly melted into bitter tears when her father told her that she was going to wed a man three times her age.
It was as if the whole world had landed on her shoulders. Hastily married off a few days later, the little girl resolved to gather all her strength and try to escape her miserable fate. The women seem furious, as if a tornado had just destroyed their houses.
I try to listen closely. What chaos. Who knows? So I have to find one and tell him my story. Am I strong enough to keep going? As a matter of course, I pinned up my long, curly brown hair under my black head scarf and covered my body with a black coat, which is what all Yemeni women wear out in public.
Trembling, feeling faint, I walked only a short way before catching the first minibus that passed along the wide avenue leading into town, where I got off at the end of the line. Then, in spite of my fear, for the first time in my life I climbed all alone into a yellow taxi. Now this endless waiting in the courtyard. To whom should I speak? Unexpectedly, over by the steps leading up to the entrance hall of the big concrete building, I spot what look like a few friendly faces in the crowd: their cheeks dark with dust, three boys in plastic sandals are studying me carefully.
They remind me of my little brothers. If they only knew what brings me here. Bewildered, helpless, I look up again into the faces of the many grown- ups hurrying past me. In their long veils, the women all look the same. What kind of a mess have I gotten myself into? Then I notice a man in a white shirt and black suit walking toward me. A judge, perhaps, or a lawyer?
I feel dirty and ashamed, but I have to climb these steps, one by one, to go tell my story, to wade through this human flood that grows even bigger the closer I get to the vast entrance hall. I almost fall down, but I catch myself. My feet feel like lead when I finally step onto the marble floor. Looking around, I spy a group of men in olivegreen uniforms and kepis. They must be policemen, or else soldiers; one of them has a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. Trembling, I discreetly latch on to the first passing veil, hoping to get the attention of the unknown woman it conceals.
A tiny voice inside me whispers, Go on, Nujood! Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no. No one has the right to keep me from seeking justice.
And this surprised stare, which feels as cold as the marble of the great hall where my cry now echoes strangely, will not make me keep quiet. I want to see the judge! The door opens onto a room with brown carpeting. The atmosphere is noisy, but reassuring. I feel safe. Outside, the muezzin issues the midday call to prayer as I sit down, like everyone else, in one of the brown armchairs lined up along the wall.
Around meI catch glimpses of familiar faces—or, rather, familiar eyes—from the angry crowd in the courtyard. Certain faces lean toward me in a strange way.
Comforted, I rest my head against the back of the chair and patiently await my turn. If God exists, I say to myself, then let Him come save me. I have always recited the five required daily prayers. During Eid al- Fitr, when we celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, I dutifully help my mother and sisters with all the cooking.
Oh, God, have pity on me! My mind is dizzy with images that come and go. Then the water becomes choppy. Then gusts of wind blow me backward toward the shore. I rub my face and recognize, standing tall there in front of me, the judge with the mustache.
The crowd has gone, the eyes have disappeared, and the room is almost empty. I have not replied, so the man tries again. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
Her father has also sold her younger sister, Haifa into marriage to a much older man. Nujoom is now about 22 and was married at 15 and has two little girls. I hope they are all happy. I hope her little girls are safe from child marriage.
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced Summary & Study Guide
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