Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

Majd’s Diary: Press & Listener Comments

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Selected Press Clips


Fast Company

“[Majd] was eager to give an authentic glimpse into the world of women in a Muslim country. She was honest about her frustrations, but was also keen to dispel negative stereotypes.”

“The program allows audiences to immerse themselves in another person’s life and relate to them in an intimate way, so that they become real and three-dimensional.”

The Guardian

“A fascinating portrait of what it’s like to be a millennial growing up in a corner of the world where young women are chided by their own brothers for not covering up enough.”

“Majd Abdulghani has captivated podcast-lovers this week with her earnest account of two years of her life in Saudi Arabia (masterfully condensed into half an hour). Abdulghani was selected from more than 1,000 applicants to an NPR contest, and if you listen you’ll instantly see why. In this radio diary, she speaks of her dreams of becoming a scientist, and her parents’ hopes of arranging her marriage. She ends up going for both and embracing her decisions, and her journey is a pleasure to hear – with karate (‘we’re this secret club, like Fight Club’), interviews with her family, and language anecdotes (“In Arabic, we call corn flakes ‘Corna Flix’”). Here’s Majd:

So here’s what happened. I met the guy who proposed to me. I don’t want to say his name. I’ll just refer to him as ‘the guy.’ (I really like the fact that the English language has the word ‘guy.’ You don’t have to say ‘boy’ and you don’t have to say ‘man.’ You can say ‘guy.’)

Come for Majd’s honesty, stay for her charisma. We can’t wait for more from her.”

Arab News

“An American radio station hosted 19-year-old Saudi Majd Abdulghani, where she narrated several excerpts from episodes of her daily life in the Kingdom, attempting to present an image of the real Saudi girl, which is usually misrepresented in the Western media.”

Women in the World in association with the New York Times

“Radio Diaries has been operating for 20 years, helping to pioneer a style of first-person documentary that has strongly influenced many of the story-driven podcasts that are currently in vogue.”

AV Club

“There is so much power to be found in audio which often goes unheralded in today’s visual world, but the ascendency of podcasting is slowly shifting the balance. Take Radio Diaries, for example: The now 20-year-old program seeks to understand life in all its prismatic brilliance through understated, self-recorded narrative documentaries, giving a platform to so many disenfranchised. With this week’s episode the show releases one of its most interesting episodes, a piece that represents the culmination of two years of audio journals from Majd, a young woman in Saudi Arabia navigating the uncertainty of whether to follow her career aspirations or accept an arrangement for marriage. Majd’s story is rather unique for a number of reasons, not simply for her giving voice to a marginalized population but also for her diversity of interests. Majd comes across as a vibrant spirit, driven by her passion of genetics, interested in practicing karate, as well as displaying a keen sense of humor. In short order listeners will doubtless become invested in Majd’s life and the tricky calculus she faces in the form of a marriage proposal. Over the course of the episode one can’t help reflecting on the nature of love, autonomy, and Western cultural conditioning, further underlining the importance of Radio Diaries’ mission.”


Selected Listener Comments


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Dear All Things Considered,

I have never written into your show before, despite having been a listener for 20 years. But after today’s Radio Diaries segment that you ran on the young woman from Saudi Arabia, I felt compelled to reach out. Never before have I been so riveted to a radio segment. The story of this young woman, her optimistic voice, and her keen insight about the changes she seeks and the cultural barriers she faces daily in Saudi Arabia locked me in, and I found myself seeking extra chores to do, a few more dishes to wash in the kitchen so I could continue listening to her story uninterrupted. I find it so refreshing — brave, actually, that someone in your organization found this young woman’s perspective important, interesting and impactful enough to set aside valuable air time (in prime time, no less) to run that piece in its entirety. This is the type of storytelling that bridges divides among nations, dispels xenophobic myths and rumors among cultures and brings us closer together as humans. This is the type of news story we need to hear more often, that humanizes the Other, and offers us insight about those whose seem far away or foreign. Especially in the current election climate, this story was a warm salve that restored my faith – for a brief moment — in journalism and in people. Thank you for running that story. Sincerely,  Lindsey Schank


I heard this riveting Radio Diary on my way home from work today. Majd sounds like an incredible young woman and it sounds like she is helping to pave the way for other modern middle-eastern Muslim women. She is driven and courageous but she also has respect for her faith and traditions. Thank you NPR for airing this unique audio portrait. – Chris Bolton


I currently teach at King Saud University and I can say with certainty that most female students I teach are just as confident, outspoken, witty, and reflective as Majd. Thank you NPR for sharing her story and shedding misconceptions that most Westerners have about young women in Saudi Arabia. – Monica Hong-Steigner


This was a lovely diary! This young lady has touched lives and opened eyes across the world including mine. – Zagora @siriusradiofan


Another instant classic from @RadioDiaries. Just rare, intimate, outstanding stuff. – @SceneOnRadio


I love her! I know how she feels, being a Muslim woman myself, but I’m so glad she sees past the pushing patriarchy. – @frantaproof

The radio diary about the young Saudi woman was one of the best things I’ve ever heard on the radio. – @huleah


Such an honest and appreciated peek into a world that’s so different from mine.  – @tzeeck


Dang it @npratc @RadioDiaries on keeping me in my driveway for 15 minutes listening to your intriguing Saudi story 🙂 – @mardorm


Listened to this episode of @RadioDiaries on the way to work and it had me nodding and beaming the entire time. – @patricialee91

This is stellar. Listen to a charismatic young Saudi woman share her everyday life. – @shannonjensen


“We will push each other to the top.” I’m having such an insane driveway moment with this. This woman is walking the road of love, for her country, for her family, and her revolutionary love for herself and her future. These are such difficult things to learn… What an amazing person. – Angela Williams Lindstrom


After a very long day I stopped and heard this audio diary of a young Saudi woman…towards the end I started to feel my breath taken away. She has such a striking voice and a quiet radiant intelligence. – Maria Friedrich


What is the best part about this story is how it shows just how human we all are…the story brings to life her humanity and the mere fact she goes through a lot of the same struggles as the rest of us is an important reminder for us all. – Kaiser Mock


Heard this on the drive home yesterday, it was an amazing, powerful, and captivating look into the life of an ordinary Saudi young woman, and the conflicting pressures that she faces dealing with her conservative religious society and the desire to leave her mark on the world. – Ben Steel


I actually sat in my boiling car to listen to the end of this. Those last five minutes brought tears to my eyes. Our lives are nothing alike, but love is such a human condition. – Anna Heun


This was by far one of the most memorable stories I’ve ever listened to on NPR. It was just so pure and genuine. My husband and I got on the phone to talk about it right after we both listened to it during our commutes. We had the privilege of visiting a few Muslim countries last month and through this story we were able to truly understand the way they see women and their roles within society, even after experiencing it ourselves during our trip. Great job NPR!! And Majd… We hope that your husband follows through and will support your dreams of becoming a scientist! – Karen Balza


Thank you Majd for carrying a microphone with you. You words were quite honest and moving. The difficulty of moving past family and societal expectations is extremely difficult. I hope she can enjoy growing as a scientist also. – Julie Jasinski


Marvelous story. It struck me that she is not to different from young women here in the US. She is charming, funny, goal driven and loving. – Nancy Craven Scarborough


This was a really insightful story. Thanks NPR for giving us a glimpse into a person’s life we hear so little about. – Ryan Grafft


The most marvelous story NPR has done in ages. – Leslie Polito


This @RadioDiaries story featuring a young Saudi woman narrating two years of her life was delightful. It just goes to show you that wonderful things can happen when you allow people to tell their own stories. Had an American narrated this, so much nuance and context and normalcy would’ve been lost. And her culture would’ve likely been pathologized. – @MsMakkah


I sat in the PetCo parking lot as I could not turn off the radio. I had to hear the entire story. – Terri Jones Schuster


Sarah Kramer and Joe Richman continue to produce the most empathetic, transporting, and life-giving journalism I encounter. Everyone should listen to this gem. – Zak Rosen


This was a beautiful experience for my commute this evening. @NPR at its very best. – David Park


Listened yesterday and was grateful for traffic so I could hear the whole story. Captivating. – Mari Mitchel


I listened to this story during yesterday’s drive, it is haunting to hear this woman’s recorded journal over two years. She is so engaging, and expresses a true love for herself and her family. – Jessie Steuart Irwin


Had to sit in the grocery store parking lot to hear the end of this woman’s story today. Her perspective, drive, and reliability is inspiring and definitely worth listening to. – Katie Shelly


This was a 20-minute segment on NPR tonight. If you want to know what a highly educated young Muslim woman from Saudi Arabia has to say about life and love, you should listen to this. It’s her diary in her words. And it will surprise you. If you really want to learn about life in an Arab country, listen. – Larry Horstman


I’m not ashamed to admit, that more often than not, radio can be so good and so personal it makes me cry. – @gabso94


Best radio diary I’ve ever heard, and I learned something about a young Saudi woman. –@April_Austin


THIS was my favorite @RadioDiaries in many a year — & I’m a big fan. Listen, listen, listen to this. – @Kate_Davidson


Listening to this podcast has been an emotional roller coaster; I almost lost it when I heard your brother’s views on marriage and then sobbed when I heard your husband’s. I am incredibly happy for you. I hope this isn’t the last time I hear of you!! – Bedour Abdullah


The best story I’ve heard in a long time. Such a strong, smart young woman. I wish her a happy life. – Kelly Haynes


A beautiful and inspiring story, I am so glad it had a happy ending. Inshallah it’ll never end الله يتمم لكم يارب – Mohanad Khuraishi


I enjoyed this story as it showed this culture in a different light to me. We can’t go around enforcing our culture and beliefs on everyone in the world! What does that make us? I felt like that she was able to choose her life, within her own religion and her own conscious and she seemed very happy with her decision. Who are we to say she is wrong? – Christy Charleville Nickolaus


I listened to this story on my way home from work today (as a woman…wife, mom, and engineer 😄), and I really enjoyed it. Majd seems so smart and sure of what she wants to accomplish in her life. I do think it’s possible be a great wife, mom, and scientist/engineer/etc., and I hope she’s able to pursue all of her goals. It sounds like she has the support of her husband. From a cultural standpoint, it sounds like there may be some stereotypes and barriers to be broken down, but kudos and best wishes to her. – Mae Bryan


I loved listening to this story. A smart, spunky, thoughtful individual! It’s tough to be from a very traditional family and attempting to balance meeting their expectations of you while following your own beliefs and aspirations. Very important to feel confident in your decisions so as to keep from feeling regret. She seems confident in her choices. I’m happy for her! – Breanne Wasinger


So glad to hear this kind of programming; we need more of it. It will help us have a better understanding of other cultures and religions. Thanks NPR and Majd!! – Deborah Zimmerman


This was an amazing story. Such a different set of circumstances from here in the USA. Majd, I hope you both do push each other to the top–life will be good. –  Maura Pothier


Smashing stereotypes, thoughtful reflection, stomach churning worry & enduring hope. Just how I like my podcasts – Lesley Gunning


This was powerful. What an incredible young woman. This could have been two hours long and I would have been riveted the whole time. She is so special. – Erika Chambers


Majd is lovely and this is a touching glimpse of a life very difficult for Americans to grasp, but Majd has the capacity to explain and to help us (or at least me) want to understand. – Cholmondeley/SoundCloud


Congratulations to you and all who made this very touching story possible especially, Majd. It is most revealing how modern this young Saudi woman is living in such a restrictive society. Her desires and ambitions are the same as women all over the world. She is smart and funny and though wants what is best for her in her own mind, she is greatly influenced by her religion and her family. Considering how marriages are arranged in certain parts of the world, it is at least nice to know she had some say in deciding whom to marry. Her “guy” may also reflect some modernity in their exchange if he is being honest, I hope so. My heart goes out to her as she pursues her academic career and role as wife at such a young age. I imagine you will keep in touch with them and have a happy follow up to their story in the years ahead. – Chris Coleman


Thank you Majd. Your honesty and openness shine positive light on your worldview, culture and beliefs. I’m sorry that some commenters were angry or sad – I don’t think they listened to YOU. They seem to be blinded by stereotype or preconceptions. You described your belief that God exists and knows what is and will be best. You described your “arranged” marriage as more as “advised” – certainly not “forced”. Your understanding of love as more than romance is very wise, marriage is a commitment not just a feeling. You value advice. You described Hijab/covering to be “protection” not “subjection”. You revealed yourself as a person, a unique individual. Sadly, people often generalize perceptions of a group (Muslims) or country (Saudi) to the individual people or citizens. You and your Husband have already ‘made a difference’ and done ‘a great thing’! Thank you. By revealing yourselves, you help us see beyond labels and stereotypes. I hope you will continue to diary. – Beyond Labels/SoundCloud

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