Adan & Eva

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

pages May 2008 Young Adult

The author of the best-selling memoir Infidel gives us a glimpse of the modern world of racial and religious tensions seen through the honest eyes of children.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, internationally renowned Somali-born author, politician and essayist, addresses here in the form of a children’s book the cultural divisions that shape individuals born into clashing societies. In Adan & Eva, she portrays the simple, candid experience of two children, one Muslim, one Jewish, struggling to understand the cultural divisions inherent in modern society.

This is the story of Eva, a young Jewish girl of 12, growing up in Amsterdam. She lives with her beloved but absent father Isaac, and her wealthy stepmother Julia. She is lonely and awkward, and the void left by her mother’s death is not filled by the cold, status-conscious Julia. Her life intersects with that of Adan, a poor Muslim boy whose family has emigrated from Morocco. Thanks to the school-quota program, he is bussed in to Eva’s school from the wrong side of town along with his older sister, Jamila.

Neither Eva nor Adan fit in with the other Dutch children. Intrigued by one another, the two outcasts strike up an unlikely friendship. Along the way, Eva learns about the realities of Muslim life, with its beauty, colors and scents, the warmth and the laughter, as well as the helplessness and marginalization of Muslim women and girls. Her curiosity leads her to the madrassah, Koran school, with Adan and Jamila. Totally unaware of the customs of this unfamiliar place, she narrowly escapes punishment from the Imam, thanks to the brave intervention of Adan.

The very next week, Adan unwittingly attends Shabbat dinner with Eva’s family. He is terrified, but his fears of an untimely death at the hands of Jews are unfounded. Nonetheless, the punishment doled out by his father for having sat at their table, drunk their wine, and brought their daughter into the madrassah is harsh. Thrown out in a fit of anger, Adan surprises upon Eva, who has snuck out of her home.

They set off on one final adventure to visit the cemetery where Eva’s mother is buried, before being separated by their families. Throughout the story, the innocence of the two curious 12 year olds casts a simple but revealing light on the nature of discrimination and cultural indoctrination as it is passed from one generation to the next.

The story of Adan and Eva is one of love and acceptance between two pure souls caught up in a world of hatred and fear, a world which threatens to extinguish the brightness of those spirits which rebel against racism and intolerance.