To Hell and BackBy Samira Bellil
Every now and then violence erupts in the banlieues of France allowing the world a glimpse into the grimmest corners of these multiethnic suburban ghettos. From such a corner comes the story of Samira Bellil, who by raising her voice and telling her tale broke the "code of silence" imposed by many in her immigrant community and the willful ignorance of society at large. In this book, Bellil describes her life in the Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis. The child of Algerian parents, she was fostered by a Belgian family until the age of five while her father was in prison. Bellil returned to a violent home and grew up to rebel against an increasingly repressive environment. Gang-raped at fourteen and then raped again some years later, she maintained her silence until she discovered that two friends had shared her fate at the hands of the same gang. Against the threat of reprisals, Bellil decided to pursue her attackers through the French legal system, earning the rejection of her family and the indifference of her lawyers and the media. To Hell and Back relates her struggle to recover, to create a new culture of support and compassion, and to offer hope to others who suffer in silence. Painful and disturbing, Bellil's tale helped inspire a national debate on women's rights and the multicultural image of France today.