*Thanks for the free book, @CrownPublishing; it’s my pleasure to be a part of your monthly book send programme and provide honest reviews for the titles chosen*
As it’s Non-fiction November, I thought it the apt time to read The Last Girl.
From the back cover:
In this intimate memoir of survival, a former captive of the Islamic State tells her harrowing and ultimately inspiring story.
Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in northern Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia had dreams of becoming a history teacher or opening her own beauty salon.
On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade.
Nadia would be held captive by several militants and repeatedly raped and beaten. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to safety.
Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to the Islamic State’s brutality, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.
In Northern Iraq, there lies the small village of Kocho; a small community of mostly farmers and shepherds. The Yazidi community live a quiet and humbling life; the people may not have much but it’s home. Until, the Islamic State militants invaded and tore this small city to pieces, and this small community realised no one was coming to help them.
The Last Girl is both a harrowing and humbling read, and without a doubt, an important one. I can’t even begin to imagine living in a warzone and I won’t pretend to compare/liken it to anything I’ve experienced in my life because, one – I can’t, and two – the focus here needs to be on Nadia, on her story, and the millions of people with similar experiences as her and others who have been affected by this conflict. No, conflict is too weak a word, the United Nations has recognised it as a genocide and I will too because we cannot shy away from what is happening in the world we live in.
I won’t recount Nadia’s experiences one by one, you can read them for yourself, but I will say, read the blurb carefully before you pick this book up because it contains things that may be triggers for people and some parts make for “heavy” reading. In particular, there is one part of this book that will stay with me forever, it was so powerful, so devastating, and had such an impact on me. In said paragraph, Nadia talks about rape being used as a weapon of war, that when she was growing up, she had never heard of the country Rwanda, in Africa, but she is linked to the women there forever as they have both been victims of war crimes. I had to pause my read, and reflect back on what I had just read – this is not a fictional account, this is a true story and even now, writing this review, I can’t put into words how reading that made me feel, let’s just say, it physically hurt my heart.
What was amazing about this book was Nadia’s will to survive, one thing that really stood out for me was when Nadia spoke about the perpetrators of these war crimes, she spoke of seeing them put on trial, losing their power and freedom as a consequence of what they had done. Now, doesn’t that embody humanity, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted these men to suffer as Nadia and these women have suffered.
This is more than a book of atrocities, I learned about the culture, religion and community spirit of the Yazidi people. I read about people from other communities helping these woman by ‘smuggling’ slaves to safety, about people gaining hope after all hope was lost. I will end this review by quoting the last section of the blurb because I think it is the perfect description of this book and I urge you all to read it.
“Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to the Islamic State’s brutality, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.”