American Girls: One Woman's Journey Into the Islamic State and Her Sister's Fight to Bring Her Home

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A brilliant, deeply reported narrative about religious extremism, radicalization, and the bonds of family: the story of an American woman who traveled to ISIS-controlled Syria with her two children and extremist husband and the sister back home who worked tirelessly to help her escape.

Raised in a restrictive Jehovah's Witness community in Arkansas, sisters Lori and Sam Sally spent their teens and twenties moving around the South and Midwest, working low-wage jobs and falling in and out of relationships. Caught in an eternal sibling rivalry--where younger, quieter Lori protected outgoing, reckless Sam--the two women eventually married a pair of brothers and settled down in Elkhart, Indiana, just around the corner from each other. And it was there that their lives totally diverged.

While Lori was ultimately able to leave her violent marriage, Sam was drawn deeper into hers--and deeper into the control of a husband who slowly radicalized, via the internet, into a jihadist. With their daughter and Sam's child from a previous relationship, the couple moved to Raqqa, Syria, where Moussa fought for ISIS and Sam, who never even converted to Islam, attempted to survive and protect her children from airstrikes, extremist indoctrination, and the brutality of the ISIS system. In Raqqa, Sam's oldest son appeared in several Islamic State propaganda videos, and she participated in ISIS's practice of enslaving Yezidi women and children. Sam says her husband coerced her to move, but Lori--who quit her job and worked tirelessly to try get Sam out of Syria--isn't so sure.

American Girls combines an in-depth examination of Sam and Lori's lives with on-the-ground reporting from Iraq, providing readers with a rare glimpse into the world of American women who join ISIS. Interweaving deeply reported narrative drama with expert analysis, the book explores how the subjugation and abuse experienced by women in the United States, women like Sam and Lori, are the same themes that enable the rise of patriarchal, extremist ideologies like the one espoused by ISIS.

Fascinating, resonant, and moving, American Girls is an unforgettable journey--from small-town Arkansas to Raqqa, from domestic abuse to a militant terrorist organization--all told through the extraordinary story of two close, complicated sisters.

Author: Jessica Roy
Binding Type: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Published: 01/16/2024
Pages: 352
Weight: 0.96lbs
Size: 9.00h x 6.00w x 0.83d
ISBN: 9781982151317

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal Prepub Alert 08/01/2023 pg. 15
Publishers Weekly 10/30/2023
Booklist 11/01/2023 pg. 5

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