Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World

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Macmillan, Dec 7, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 352 pages
7 Reviews

The New York Times calls GROWING UP BIN LADEN: "The most complete account available of the terrorist's immediate family." (May 15, 2011)

A true story that few ever believed would come to light, GROWING UP BIN LADEN uncovers startling revelations and hidden secrets carefully guarded by the most wanted terrorist of our lifetime, Osama bin Laden.

"I was not always the wife of Osama bin Laden. Once I was an innocent child dreaming little girl dreams..."

Thus begins this powerful story as Najwa bin Laden, who married her cousin Osama bin Laden at the age of 15 to become his first wife and the mother to eleven of his children, and her son, Omar bin Laden, the fourth-born son of Osama bin Laden. Together, mother and son tell an extraordinarily powerful story of a man hated by so many, yet both loved and feared by his family, with spine-tingling details about the life and times of the man they knew as a husband and father, including: - Osama's disapproval of modern conveniences, including electricity and medicine- His plan to toughen up his sons by taking them into the desert without food or water- Transporting his wives and children to the rough terrain of Sudan, where he claimed to be preparing them for attacks from western powers, commanding them to dig holes, and to sleep in those holes, allowing nothing more than sand and twigs for cover- Omar's horror at the rape and murder of a boy his own age, by members of a jihadist group living among them in the Sudan. - What happened in the bin Laden home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on the morning of September 11, 2001, and Omar's surprise phone call with his mother, who escaped from Afghanistan only two days before the shattering events that killed so many innocent people
Since September 11, 2001, journalists have struggled to uncover carefully guarded information about Osama's private life. Until now, Osama Bin Laden's family members have not cooperated with any writers or journalists. Now, with unprecedented access and insight, Jean Sasson, author of the bestselling Princess: A True Story Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, takes us inside the secret world of Osama bin Laden.


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Growing up Bin Laden: Osama's wife and son take us inside their secret world

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There have of course been many books in English on Osama bin Laden, but this one is different. Here, the personal side of bin Laden is recounted by his estranged first wife (his cousin, she is mother ... Read full review

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"Growing Up bin Laden" is not just one of Jean's very best books but one of the best books that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I cannot begin to tell you how utterly fascinating and educational "Growing Up bin Laden" is.
The book is actually the autobiographies of 2 people; Omar bin Laden and his mother, Najwa. What makes their story so exceptional is that they are both forever connected to the notorious serial-terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
Before I read this book I held very little regard for Omar bin Laden as the US media has portrayed him as a person hungry for attention and publicity. But after reading his story I have a new understanding of him. Although he is the son of a horrible murderer and monster, he is also a very sensitive man who endured a horrific life.
I never heard of Najwa bin Laden prior to this book. And I was very surprised to read her story because it was both shocking and gripping. She marries bin Laden at a young age and dedicates the rest of her life to being a dedicated and devoting wife.
There are some aspects of the story that are not just shocking, but even terrifying. For example, why was Najwa so devoted to her husband (who she is still married to)? Why didn't she ever criticize him? And why hasn't Omar denounced his father? I think once you read the full story you will get a better picture of their life and these questions will ALL be answered.
The short answer is that in the Middle Eastern culture (especially in parts of the world like Saudi Arabia) a man's word is law. It is part of the culture not to ever demean a father/husband. It just doesn't happen under any circumstances. (I speak from knowledge as I am of 100% Arab ancestry)
The chapters are each written separately. Some are by Najwa and some are by Omar. It is written in first person and also includes some explanatory text interspersed by Ms. Sasson to educate the readers which makes the book flow a lot better because it adds a sense of continuity.
It's difficult to say which of the protagonists I preferred. At first, I think Najwa was just a touch more gripping. But as the book progressed, especially towards the final chapters I found myself hanging on every word that Omar wrote.
I think it's also important to remember Jean's contribution to "Growing up bin Laden." Although it was written by 2 other people and although Jean's name appears last on the title page, this is 110% her book. No other authoress could have pulled off this mammoth endeavor because Jean is such a respected writer throughout the entire world.
Jean Sasson's writing is also eye-opening and always absorbing because she doesn't over dramatize anything. This book is not sensationalized in the least. Instead, it is an honest depiction of Omar's and Najwa's stories.
The book is written up until the horrible tragedies of September 11, 2001. There is very little info given about the actual event as neither Omar nor Najwa were involved in any of the terror activities of Osama bin Laden. Instead the book describes how this family was torn apart.
Also included in the book are maps and information on the countries that the family lived in. Besides Saudi Arabia, they also lived in The Sudan and Afghanistan.
What was interesting to me was how Najwa explained how things keep getting worse and worse for her and her children as her husband became more and more fanatical. For example, it got so bad that they were forced (by her callous husband) to live without electricity or any "modern conveniences" such as inhalers for her sons who had severe asthma. On the surface, I have to ask myself how a woman can stay with a monster, a monster that treats her and her children like this. Again this is something that is wonderfully detailed in "Growing up bin Laden." Najwa went out of her way to explain why she chose to stand by this beast.
This is both a relaxed and an engrossing reading experience.

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My Youth
Married Life
Mother of Many Sons
Born the Son of Osama bin Laden
Marriage Surprises
Growing Up bin Laden
Moving to Medina
Many Children for Osama
The Violence Escalates
Real War
Jihad Vacation
True Terror
The Tightening Noose
Young Marriage
The Beginning of the End
To Syria

To Africa
Family Affairs
The Scent of Death
Journey into the Unknown
A Note Regarding Osama bin Ladens Political and Militant Activities
Tora Bora Mountain
A Far Far Country
My Fathers Army
Mountain Life
Return to Saudi Arabia
Leaving Afghanistan Forever
September 11 2001
Final Comments by Jean Sasson
Osama bin Ladens Family Who Were They? What Happened to Them?
Osama bin Laden Chronology
AlQaeda Chronology 19882008

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About the author (2010)

JEAN SASSON, a New York Times bestselling author, lived in the Middle East for 12 years and has traveled extensively in the area for 30 years. She lives in the Southern USA.

NAJWA BIN LADEN, who married her cousin Osama bin Laden at the age of 15, is his first wife and the mother to seven of his sons and four of his daughters. She currently lives with three of her eleven children in the Middle East.

OMAR BIN LADEN, the fourth son of Osama bin Laden, has publicly called for his father to "change his ways." Both Omar and his mother left Afghanistan before September 11, 2001, and neither has been in contact with Osama bin Laden since.

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