Kissing Asphalt by Delicia Niami is unlike any memoir I have ever read. Capturing her life, Niami recounts the horrific tragedies of her youth, all of which have made her into the resilient, inspiring woman she is today.

Niami’s story begins with every parent’s worst nightmare. Recently separated, her mother allows their father to take four-year-old Delicia and her older brother Nile for five days on his own. Not having seen their father for a year, they are ecstatic, especially when he mentions he is taking them to Disneyland. However, Delicia and Nile notice as they begin to drive that nothing looks like the journey to this magical kingdom. Little do Delicia and Nile know, he is kidnapping them, taking them to Iraq as a slap to their mother.

Already, Delicia’s life is off to a terrifying start. Whisked into a foreign country separated from everything she has ever known, the two are forced to live here until they can be rescued. Not understanding a word of Arabic or anything about the culture, I find it a miracle that the two survived as they did, given their father’s clear incompetency. Finally, miraculously, their mother is able to locate them and fight for her children to return to the States.

Do not be fooled; although Delicia is saved from her captor, her life in no way gets any easier. She spends much of her childhood trying to fill the void of a father figure, putting her in extremely dangerous and life-endangering circumstances. Per the trigger warning, readers should be aware that Niami divulges into some very hard topics, including child molestation, sexual assault, and abuse, as well as suicide. Some passages were a very difficult read as she describes in detail the absolutely devasting events that occur. I cannot even fathom the horrors she had to face, and I was sick to my stomach hearing how abuse was such a heavy theme in her life. If readers themselves struggle with hearing recounts or stories of these difficult topics—please beware this is NOT the book for you.

The fact that Niami can write of these events shows her incredible strength. To have survived so many odds and lived to tell the tale is truly breathtaking. I aspire to have the kind of courage she must possess to tell this story. If you are a reader who has struggled with any of the topics discussed, I would recommend this book to you. Niami’s story may help you manage your own grief and find light even in the darkest of times.