Well, I finally thought of something I’d like to put into this blog – I’m an inveterate reader, almost never without a book in my hand or close at hand (even while doing other things – used to drive my mom crazy when I was a kid watching me unload the dishwasher while reading!) – so, I’m going to comment on my current reading. I’ve been wanting a place to put up some book reviews/recommendations, so, here it is!
I’ve just finished a very affecting book, Desert Flower, the biography of ex-supermodel Waris Dirie – now wait, before you go away, this is NOT a fluff piece about a brainless, too-skinny-for-her-own-good, only-interested-in-her-looks woman. This incredible African lady was born into a Somalian nomad family, one of 12 children her mother bore. Her early life was one of constant searching for water and sustenance for the family’s herds of goats and camels, and for the family as well. She grew up in a very simple and natural way in a loving family – except for one glaring thing. When she was about five, she was subjected, as are millions of African girls, to circumcision, now known as female genital mutilation. This was and continues to be a widely practiced tradition in many many African countries, as well as among Africans who live in other countries in Europe and the US.
Waris describes very clearly the whys of how this could happen, how this tradition remains so strong in spite of its obvious (to the Western mind) horror. In a nutshell, in Somalia, a girl is considered unclean, oversexed, and unfit for marriage unless she has been mutilated. Thus she would never be able to be married, have a family, or live in the Somalian society. But the result for many, if not all, girls who undergo this procedure, is life-long health, urinary, and menstrual problems, as well as depression and a complete inability to feel sexual pleasure (which is part of the point).
When Waris was about 13, her father arranged to marry her off to a very much older man for the grand bride-price of five camels. Being a very strong-willed and powerful girl, she ran away from her desert home to avoid the marriage, ultimately ending up in London as a maid to the ambassador of Somalia’s household, and from there became a model. Later in her life she has become an activist against this practice, and is now a special ambassador for the United Nations, traveliing and speaking out about it.
OK, this isn’t really a book review, it’s more a call to check out her website, and read about this, and perhaps become involved. Some states in the US are starting to make this procedure specifically illegal in order to prevent African families living in the States from doing this thing to their daughters. I intend to research whether Massachusetts is one of them, and if not, see how I can get our legislators interested.
But do at least read the book! Her voice is very engaging, her story engrossing, and her life amazing. Check it out!