By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Free Press ($26)
starts with one of the most powerful introductions in recent memory. Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes the five-page death threat written to her and stabbed into the chest of her friend, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Having lived in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, Ali is able to give a firsthand account of Islam in the Muslim world. What she discovers is a religion she first embraces and later casts aside because of its treatment of women. Eventually, Ali emigrates to the West, bringing her fight against Islamic mistreatment of women to the world stage. This powerful memoir gives readers a personal look at one of the world's most controversial women.
S: A NOVEL ABOUT THE BALKANS
By Slavenka Drakulic
In her novel about the torture and rape of Muslim women during the Bosnian conflict of the early 1990s, Slavenka Drakulic gives her characters no names. Instead, first initials give each woman an unspecific identity in a world where she has none. S is among a group of women kept secluded in a female prison camp. She is set aside and systematically raped by enemy soldiers. Heartbreakingly, the women have lost their solidarity in their fight for survival, and when S gives birth to a child conceived during her imprisonment, motherly feelings are completely absent. Though fictionalized, the tale is told with a truthfulness that gives voice to the secret horrors of war.
THE HANDMAID'S TALE
By Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books ($14.95)
Often mischaracterized simply as feminist literature,
The Handmaid's Tale
is a disturbing look at a future in which the human race is in grave danger. The handmaids are the only women capable of bearing children, but their status is not exalted. They are unwilling servants of a society that doesn't seem to understand why it's trying so hard to survive in the first place.