Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reading Yassmin's Story

I've just finished re-reading Yassmin's Story: Who Do You Think I Am? You read that right...I re-read it. This is one of the fastest reads I've had in a long time. In this memoir, 24-year-old Yassmin tells of her experiences as an immigrant to Australia from Sudan. Her experiences are magnified by the fact that she is a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab.

I was drawn to the book by the power of Yassmin's personality and her diverse "identities". As Yassmin says, she has "the privilege and blessing of taking on multiple identities." At the mere age of 24, Yassmin has an impressive and diverse resume. She is a mechanical engineer / supervisor on an oil rig.

In the prologue, Yassmin describes her refuge, the helideck. She says "I'm sitting on the helideck in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away from any land. It's the dead of night, the only time I find peace and the chance to be alone on an oil rig..."

OKAY, hold on.  I want to take a moment to really think about where Yassmin finds refuge. She finds it on the helicopter deck of her oil rig.  To fully appreciate this, you may need a visual. This is a photo of an oil rig out in the middle of the ocean.


Yassmin is able to share her experiences in a candid, easy style. She shares on a granular level how her parents' lives were changed by the overthrow of the democratic government. She shares what led them to leave their family, home and country.  

She identifies with several minority groups, but not always at the same time. She is a woman. She is African-Austrailian. She is Muslim. She is a woman engineer. She is a woman supervisor on an oil rig, which is still a predominately male field of work.

Yassmin shares observations of different forms of bias and oppression that affect Muslim women in western society. She shares this without bitterness. She gives what can be considered an alternate point of view of Islam and women's choices and freedoms. Acknowledging that there are women around the world who are oppressed and that some of these women happen to also be Muslim, Yassmin explains, "But their Islam is not the cause of their oppression; the cause is usually the regime they are in, their economic circumstances or the patriarchal environment and culture." 

Yassmin's story is uplifting. It's an "I can if I think I can" story. She is able to share her perspective of societal norms that may need to be challenged. At the same time, she shares so much gratitude for her life. She is grateful to both parents for their sacrifices that included leaving their country to ensure a better life for her and her brother. She is grateful for a stable childhood and she is grateful for her privilege of having a good education. She is grateful for the "...privilege of having a stable job, the privilege of wealth that allows me to access technology, food and media freely..."

It was a pleasure to read this young woman's positive outlook and positive accomplishments. It's eye opening to see and understand more clearly how systems appear to someone with a different point of view. It is refreshing to be reminded of the gifts of privilege that often goes unacknowledged. 

If you read this memoir, I hope you share your thoughts with me. 



I received an early copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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