Book Club Series – The Last Girl

“We defy them [ISIS] by not letting their crimes go unanswered. Every time I tell my story, I feel that I am taking some power away from the terrorists...

More than anything else, I said, I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine."

Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month we’re reading The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski.  

In her autobiography, activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Nadia seizes and wields her own story to elevate the voice of Yazidis, capturing their history, culture, and the genocide they endured at the hands of ISIS. She recalls the atrocities Yazidis endured, from the massacre to the systematic sexual enslavement of thousands, in a call for justice. 

What is this book about? 

Book Cover for The Last Girl

Trigger warning: Sexual violence, physical violence, kidnapping, terrorism 

Told in three parts, Nadia begins her autobiography in Kocho, where she grew up and had imagined the setting for the rest of her life. Located in Sinjar in northern Iraq, Kocho was one of a number of Yazidi villages where people formed peaceful, close-knit communities. She recalls her large, loving family, who at time struggled to make ends meet, especially in the aftermath of her father leaving her mother and his later death. As a religious minority, the Yazidis lived under the constant threat of persecution in 2014, their fears were realized as death descended upon Kocho.  

The second part of The Last Girl bares the details of how ISIS rounded up her village, divided them by sex, killed the men, then used rape as a weapon of war against the women and girls. As a sabiyya (sex slave, plural sabaya), Nadia was repeatedly sold, traded, and raped by members of ISIS. Her story, she points out, was not unique in this. Thousands of other Yazidi women and girls continue to endure the same, forced to convert as cruel men try to break their spirits. Loneliness and the complicity of the people in Mosul and other ISIS-occupied areas drove Nadia to hopelessness.  

Nadia’s escape opens the third part. She shares the kindness and bravery of a family who helped her reunite with her own remaining relatives now in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Together, they mourn their people. Some of the women Nadia loves make it back. Thousands more remain captive. Nadia cautions of how one’s story can be used for others’ designs, and the power of controlling your own narrative. She punctuates hers with a call to bring ISIS to justice. 

Discussion Questions 

Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share with us your take on the book! 

  1. From the start, Nadia paints a vivid picture of the Yazidi culture and faith. What stood out to you about their values? How will you remember the Yazidi people?  

  1. What were some ways that women were empowered in Yazidi culture? How did gender norms impact the outcomes for Nadia’s mother?  

  1. Nadia weaves in the history and politics of Iraq and the wars it has weathered. Among the events leading up to the invasion of Kocho, what effect did the actions of peshmerga (Kurdish military forces), American military, and surrounding communities have on what happened to the Yazidis?  

  1. How does Nadia explain the different but devastating effects of how ISIS treated different genders as part of its plan for genocide? 

  1. At the home of Morteja, Nadia internally condemns his mother for her part (and the role of other women) in supporting ISIS. What are ways that women can prop up misogynist structures? What is the price of propping these up and who pays it?  

  1. Nadia explains that a Yazidi woman would not stand for any other woman to be treated as she and the other captives have been. What does she feel women owe to each other? What is the importance of women’s solidarity?  

  1. Nadia calls out the inaction of the Sunni Arabs in the villages surrounding Kocho and later the inaction of people living in ISIS territory, particularly the people who do not sympathize with them.  What are some of the belief systems or fears that may have prevented people from taking action against ISIS? Imagining yourself in a similar situation, what kinds of actions could you have taken to be an ally to Yazidis? 

  1. When Yazidi women escaped, many felt the need to keep silent about being raped. What were their fears in revealing what happened and why? What was the significance and effect of the religious leaders’ decision to welcome women back and support them?  

  1. Nadia discusses the trauma Yazidi people live with. How does she depict the effects of the genocide on men? How does she depict the effects on women? What steps do they take towards rebuilding — both on a personal level and on a community level? 

  1. Upon her escape, Nadia learns that her story as a survivor of the genocide and as a captive has been shared against her wishes to bolster someone else’s political agenda. What were the effects of this on Nadia and the people around her? What is the importance of telling and owning your story? How does Nadia do that in this autobiography?