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Author Manal al-Sharif never planned to become an activist. In fact, she didn’t even know what the words activism and dissent meant.

Born in male-dominated Saudi Arabia, al-Sharif was accustomed to her culture’s restrictions on females both at home and in society. In fact, for a time during her teens, she embraced radical Islamic teaching, considering herself worthless as a female and living in terror of the hell preached by religious leaders that she was sure she would inhabit if she didn’t keep all of their many rules.

In her 20s, al-Sharif was hired by Aramco, a company formerly owned by Americans, and lived in a compound with other employees. The enclave resembled suburbs in the United States. There, al-Sharif experienced liberty like never before—freedom that didn’t exist for her outside of the gated community, including the right to drive.

As contradictions in both her government’s policies and in the religious leaders’ sermons piled up, al-Sharif’s eyes were opened. Her desire to fight for the right of women to drive, as well as to attain other basic human rights, intensified. When she became the public face for the grassroots group, Women2Drive, she paid the price—death threats, ostracism, and jail time.

Daring to Drive—poignant, disturbing, and personal—is a timely memoir in light of the recent Saudi royal decree which will finally allow women to obtain a driver’s license beginning in June 2018. (Simon & Schuster)

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