AMERICAN TRAITOR: The rise and fall of Al-Qaeda’s U.S.-Born Leader Adam Gadahn

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In this biography, we follow the path of Adam Gadahn from a child of hippie parents to a major spokesperson for Al-Qaeda. It is a shocking transformation, taking Gadahn from his childhood on a California farm to Pakistan and the very inner circle of Al-Qaida. The transformation is years in the making. It leads from Gadahn’s early interest in computers and heavy metal to his first contacts with the Islamic Center of Orange County to his final denunciation of his America and fully embracing his new life as a voice for Al-Qaida. Along the way, he converts to Islam, learns Arabic, and cuts ties with his family. Finally, he appeared in numerous videos for Al-Qaida, calling for the destruction of America and seeking new recruits.

This work is a meticulously researched, complete with details and timelines of not only Gadahn’s life, but also of his parents and grandparents. His parents were eccentric, not surprisingly. They lived on a farm in Southern California, where Gadahn’s father was a halal butcher, butchering goats according to the dietary laws of the Muslim faith. Adam was homeschooled, along with his three siblings. He is described as a “loner” and an “average” teenager who dabbled in heavy metal music and early social media and video production. “Gadahn” itself is a made-up name, his father having chosen it because it “means nothing.” The family name was originally “Pearlman,” and Adam Gadahn’s paternal grandfather was a leader of the Jewish community, serving for numerous Jewish organizations. Adam’s father, Phillip, converted to Christianity. The conflict here raises curiosity of Adam’s motives of why and how he went from a young man of Jewish and Christian heritage to Muslim radical. The reader knows what happened, but there is little hint at why and what motivated Gadahn. This is, in part, the nature of the work, a factual, posthumous biography without input from Gadahn. When reading a biography, the reader does want a hint of the subject’s motivations. However, the book offers some insights into the influence of a group filled with hate and anger can have on vulnerable young people, like Gadahn.

Chris Hayden

Chris Hayden been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.


Reviewed By:

Author Steven Stalinsky
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 491 pages
Publisher MEMRI Books
Publish Date 25-Nov-2017
ISBN 9780967848020
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue June 2018
Category Current Events & Politics
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