I’ve just finished reading a book that made me cry. The title was “One of us”, and I had no intention of reading this book, actually, but then I got it as a Christmas gift, and I thought to myself that maybe, maybe it’s a good thing to read about this now… Some time has passed bye, and we are ready to never forget.
It wasn’t a foreign terrorist group behind the biggest attack on Norway in peacetime. It was actually a young man from Oslo. Ever since 22 July 22 2011, Norway has tried to understand what drove the mass murderer to such a heinous act.
With the use of unique sources, Åsne Seierstad depicts the image of a man who for years tried to fit into society’s framework, but who ultimately crushed them in the most brutal manner.
This is also the story of the victims. Two sisters who had rejoiced at the AUF’s summer camp on Utøya, the highlight of year for them. The summer camp was also the destination for a group of boys from far north of Norway. They set out to share their political ideas, to meet new people, to learn new things, to have fun and to hear other talk… And only some of them would come back home.
I was afraid this book would try to make me understand the terrorist and why he did what he did. It was not, even though it was the story of a child who had problems and was neglected, a young teenager who got rejected by his friends and his father, a young man who used five years of his life to play the online videogame WOW. But it was also the story about the man, who grew up in one of the world’s richest countries, in the capital which was multicultural, with friends from different parts of the world. He was one of us. There are a lot of people that have had similar experiences growing up, and a lot worse. He had a lot of possibilities.
The best part of the book is the part were Åsne Seierstad writes about some of the victims, and their families. We get a reminder of the many beautiful and talented young people that were killed, because of the cruel ideas in one man’s head. Even now when I write about it, I can’t hold back my tears. The story of Bano Rashid, who was 7 years old when her parents took her and her siblings and flew from the war in their country. They came to Norway to leave a peaceful life. Bano engaged in a lot of activities after school, always with her sister Lara by her side. She was happy, she worked a whole summer to be able to buy a Norwegian folkloric costume. And she was active in politics. The summer camp at Utøya was the highlight of the summer for her and her sister. Bano got interviewed by television a few hours before she was killed. She was 18 years old, and she was killed. Not in a war, but in a summer camp for youth. In Norway. She was one of us.
The award-winning author Åsne Seierstad has previously reported from wars and conflicts around the world. On 22 July 2011, terror came to her own country. “One of us” is the first book she has written about Norway.
I’m glad I read the book, and I will recommend it, even though I will say that it is hard reading and the story will follow me for days.