Malika Oufkir's first book, Stolen Lives, told the horrific story of her 20-year imprisonment in Morocco. The eldest of six children of the closest aide and friend of King Hassan II, Oufkir spent most of her childhood and adolescence in the seclusion of the court harem, surrounded by luxury. In 1972, when she was 18, her father was executed after a failed assassination attempt. Oufkir, her five younger siblings and her mother were imprisoned in a desert penal colony for 15 years, the last 10 in solitary cells. Recaptured five days after an audacious escape, Oufkir and the others were officially free, but unable to leave their home, carry on friendships or lead ordinary lives. In 1996, the family finally fled Morocco to begin anew.
Freedom: The Story of My Second Life, Oufkir's follow-up memoir, details her struggle to create a normal life outside her homeland. First in France, then the United States, Oufkir confronts the abundance of food available in supermarkets, shocking after all those years of prison deprivation and hoarding even the smallest crumb. Equally frightening to her is how technology makes the world a small place; Oufkir learns how to live in a world where her appearance on Oprah makes her an international celebrity.
Oufkir's story is filled with hope. Living for the first time as an adult, she grabs our attention with her observations and humor, reminding us of the basic freedoms we take for granted: friendship, love and the ability to build the lives we dream about. Her most poignant passages detail her quest to find love, and eventually, a child. My first man, the one who was to make a real' woman out of me, came into my life shortly after I was freed from prison. I was a 43-year-old virgin, she writes. I have to relearn everything about being a woman, from the beginning. . . . I want to be a woman, at long last. Kelly Koepke is a freelance writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.