You describe how the bin Ladens changed during the 1980s. What were the rest of us typically doing?
Annetta S. of Silver Spring, Md., asks:
I truly agree with how you described the great changes that family went through in a "very concentrated" period of time (the '80s). I'm wondering what is your insight as to what most of the "rest of us" were typically up to during that same period.
Steve Coll responds:
In researching the pressures and the struggles over identity that the bin Ladens of Osama's generation experienced, I was struck by some of the parallels with American experience, particularly the challenge of balancing personal religious faith, which many Americans hold deeply, with the temptations and choices of a free consumer culture.