I love a good memoir. There is nothing like reading about other people’s lives to give you some perspective. And, if I’m being honest, the crazier the person’s life is, the more intriguing I find the story. And Shyima Hall had a pretty crazy childhood. She was born in Egypt, to a family that lived in poverty. She was one of many children and her father was rarely around and Shyima raised most of her younger brothers and sisters starting when she was very young. Despite the poverty and neglect, Shyima describes her young childhood with her family as a happy time. Everything changed when she turned eight and her parents sold her into slavery to a rich Egyptian family.
Slavery is legal in Egypt and Shyima was one of many slaves owned by this particular family. The family routinely hit all their slaves and called them names and mocked them. Shyima worked 20 hours a day on one meal a day. And she was eight years old. Things got even worse when “the Dad” got into legal trouble and fled Egypt. The family got rid of all their slaves, except one, Shyima. The family brought Shyima with them to America. They built a storage closet in their garage that served as Shyima’s room. They never brought her new clothes, never got her medical help, never gave her any kind of education. Shyima describes a scene where she was terribly sick, had to work a twenty hour day and carefully snuck some medication when she was cleaning a bathroom, but she was terrified the family would find out and punish her.
Her ordeal finally ended when a concerned citizen made an anonymous phone call to the police department and Shyima was rescued. Shyima was finally allowed to go to school, to learn to read and write and get the education we take for granted in the U.S. She graduated from high school and became a U.S. citizen. She has learned to trust people and develop relationships. And she has become an advocate for human trafficking and slavery. Her story is one of triumph.
While I enjoyed the story, I found it to be pretty slow and anti-climatic. The last half of the story is devoted to after Shyima’s rescue and it just dragged on and on for me. I finished the first part of the book in a few days. It took me weeks to finish the book. While I am happy for her outcome, I feel like the book could have been wrapped up quicker. I would give this book three out of five stars.