Book Review

The Last Girl: My Story Of Captivity, And My Fight Against The Islamic State

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State

  • Author: Nadia Murad
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Publisher: Random House Audio

Rating: 5 out of 5.

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

In this intimate memoir of survival, a former captive of the Islamic State tells her harrowing and ultimately inspiring story.

Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in northern Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia had dreams of becoming a history teacher or opening her own beauty salon.

On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade.

Nadia would be held captive by several militants and repeatedly raped and beaten. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to safety.

Today, Nadia’s story – as a witness to the Islamic State’s brutality, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi – has forced the world to pay attention to an ongoing genocide. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.

This book came onto my radar when an event with Nadia Murad was cancelled at a Toronto school in 2021. A school board superintendent cancelled the event because she was worried that it would increase Islamophobia. You can see coverage on that here.

Naturally, it made me curious to see what her book was actually about, since her book seemed to focus on the Islamic State, which is an extremist organization (Islamist), which is not the same as Islamic, not by a long shot. The Islamic State (ISIS) twists around Muslim beliefs to suit their twisted purposes and justify terrorism. Just like any other form of extremist terrorist groups, regardless of what religion or sect they identify with.

And I checked out this audiobook from the library with every intention of just reviewing it on Goodreads, like I do with the vast majority of audiobooks I listen to. But the deeper into this book I got, the more I realized that this is a book that I wanted to share on my blog. I apologize for the lack of content warnings, but believe me when I say that there’s a lot. There’s murder, genocide, rape, trauma, and torture, and probably a lot more that I can’t even think of off the top of my head. It isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s important. And I think that a little discomfort on my end is something that I can set aside, especially since Nadia Murad was brave enough to share this story, that she lived through.

“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”

This is a story that occurred only a few years ago. This isn’t ancient history. This didn’t occur generations ago. It didn’t even occur a single generation ago. It’s current history. There are still Yazidi girls living in sexual slavery. And there are people in our world who don’t even know who the Yazidi people are. 

The Yazidi people are an ethnic minority in Western Asia, and they practice their own unique religion. Nadia Murad’s family hailed from Iraq, and upon the invasion of ISIS, they were targeted for a genocide. The men and older women were killed off, the boys were taken for indoctrination into ISIS, and the young women were sold into sexual slavery and forcibly converted to Islam. 

Nadia was one of those young women, sold off at age 14, and separated from her family. For years, she didn’t learn of the fates of her mother, siblings, and other family members. She suffered at the hands of numerous men, had to convert against her will, and struggled with her faith and loss of hope. But she continued to try to escape, and she luckily managed to finally get away to safety. First, in a refugee camp and then to Germany, where she worked hard to rebuild her life. She began to share her story, overcoming shame and cultural taboo in doing so, and gained strength from that. Ultimately, Nadia became a UN Goodwill Ambassador, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and a Yazidi human rights activist. Her story holds immense power, and she advocates for legal action against ISIS members, so many of which are unpunished for their heinous crimes against humanity. This book goes to show the way that just speaking up and sharing can make such a major difference, no matter who you are or where you come from. 

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