Daring To Drive by Manal Al-Sharif (Simon & Schuster) ISBN: 9781471164408
Daring to Drive is about driving; and it is not about driving.
Manal Al-Sharif recounts her campaign to free Saudi Arabian women to drive. She begins, rather abruptly, at the climax: imprisonment for “driving while female.” This chaotic introduction sets the stage for her autobiography, in which she creates a nuanced discord between the loyal, indoctrinated young girl of the past and the activist of the present.
Although written in a methodical style of dry clarity, the book’s charm is in its measured portrayal of a woman’s life in Saudi Arabia. With the calm lucidity and candour of everyday conversation, Al-Sharif reveals a world in which the disturbing is commonplace. Each page weaves a suffocating thread into the systems of oppression that encode the lives of girls, wives, and mothers. The dignified personal narrative lends structure and colour to the descriptions of patriarchal Saudi culture.
Daring to Drive may lack some of the rich vigour that I enjoy in a book, but I was engrossed while I read, and I was haunted when I closed the pages. The author’s campaign is more than driving. It is a beginning. It is a symbol. It is the sound of many silenced women. Read it. You may hear them too.