Staff review by Chris Saliba
Anne Aly first came to national attention several years ago as an academic and researcher on issues concerning counter-terrorism and extremism. More recently she entered politics as the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Cowan in Western Australia. She won the seat and became the first Muslim woman to enter parliament. In Finding My Place: From Cairo to Canberra – The Story of an Irrepressible Woman, Dr Aly tells of her personal journey.
Born in Egypt in 1967, and migrating to Australia at the age of two, Anne grew up in suburban Australia like any other kid. The only difference was her darker skin and Egyptian heritage. She made friends, endured teasing (often called “blackie” and once spat on in the face by a fellow school kid) and generally concentrated on all the positives of her Australian upbringing.
When Anne turned seventeen, her parents became concerned about her marriageability, and so the family pulled up stumps and moved back to Egypt, ostensibly in the hope of finding Anne a husband. Horrified at the prospect, but yet succumbing to parental authority, Anne continued her studies in Cairo, graduating in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She did marry in Egypt, finding a husband of her own choice. The marriage produced two sons, was abusive, and soon ended. Left on her own to raise two boys, Anne spent years of struggle – emotional and financial. Some of these passages in Finding My Place are deeply sad and heartbreaking.
A hard worker, Anne maintained her studies through a second none-too-happy marriage and forged herself a considerable career as an academic, appointed Associate Professor at Curtin University in 2014 and Professor at Edith Cowan University in 2015. A wonderful achievement, made all the sweeter by the fact that many had sniggered at her academic ambitions.
Finding My Place is a splendid book: inspiring, funny and genuine. It’s the story of personal hardships and challenges, of feeling yourself to be an outsider and and wondering where on earth you fit in life’s bewildering scheme of things. Anne Aly writes in a refreshingly breezy manner, peppering her story with entertaining incidents and smart observations (the descriptions of getting a license in Egypt are hilarious). Despite being the victim of racial abuse and domestic violence, Aly’s voice is always chipper, looking to find that glass half full. In these pages she certainly makes good company.
It’s not often that a parliamentarian writes a memoir like this. They’re usually self-serving, the story of a vocation that was practically commissioned in heaven. Anne Aly’s story is one of hits and misses, hard work and grasping at opportunities, of someone who doesn’t claim to have any answers, but is searching nonetheless.
A thoroughly enjoyable read. Don't miss it!
Release date: 19th March
Finding My Place: From Cairo to Canberra – The Story of an Irrepressible Woman, by Anne Aly. Published by ABC books. ISBN: 9780733338489 RRP: $32.99
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