Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotted: Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

Not to be confused with: Stollen Loaves: 20 Years in a Dessert Jail which is kind of an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel only longer and, ultimately, fatter.
Where: N-train
Who was reading: A young woman with dark circles under her eyes and a harried look about her. The flared cuffs of her jeans tumbled like heavy drapes over silver sneakers.
Barnes and Noble sez: On August 15th, 1972, Malika Oufkir was probably the most privileged teenager in all Morocco. The eldest daughter of King Hassan II's top aide, she had been raised in the opulent seclusion of the monarch's harem. But within 24 hours, her father would be tried and summarily executed for treason, and she and her entire family would be arrested and imprisoned in a remote desert penal colony. For the next 20 years, her accommodations would only grow worse.”
Ok, so I’m sure what happened to the author was really bad and all, but… It sort of bothers me that this particular story garnered so much attention simply because it happened to a child of the leisure class. Alright, it really bothers me. Must a tale of injustice involve rich pretty people before we the book-buying public deign to care? And at the end of the day, what do we take away from such a sensationalistic story? It’s an isolated incident that sucked for a handful of people, but it doesn’t have wide-ranging implications for society and it doesn’t call attention to any particular wrong in need of being righted.
If you want to hear about how prisons suck, why not read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander? Did you know that more black men are currently incarcerated in America than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began? That’s fucked up. And it’s happening right now on a large scale. It’s also an issue we can do something about. And to me, that makes Ms. Alexander's book 100 times more worthy of being read than Ms Oufkir’s. It doesn’t just give the reader a fleeting sense of smug good samaritanship—that vacuous “I just concentrated on a serious issue” feeling you occasionally get when you listen to NPR. It gives them the opportunity to stand up for something and potentially make a difference.
Also? It's worth noting that Malika Oufkir’s father did stage a coup and try to kill the king. Of course his family didn’t deserve to be punished, and in my opinion, the death penalty is always unethical, but it’s not like he was 100% innocent.


  1. This is an awesome entry in an awesome blog (although I was sad that you ragged on NPR -- is nothing sacred?). Keep up the good work!