I looked for a book off my shelves that I hadn't read yet and came upon this one-- one I've been meaning to read ever since I first heard of Waris Dirie a few months ago when she disappeared for a few days and made the international news.
As I had a few hours to wait for my son to finish his pottery class, I dove right into this book. And, it was very good. I was able to finish it before my son's class was over 2 1/2 hours later.
Waris' life has definitely been interesting and, in some cases, very sad. Born in Somalia, she lived with her nomadic family for her first 13 years. As she notes, all ages are estimates, since they didn't really pay attention to birthdays. She begged her mother to be circumcised when she was five years old-- obviously, she had no idea what that meant, at all-- she only knew it meant she was considered more grown up. And, this was the kind you read about-- the kind that removes both the inner and outer labia and the clitoris. The woman that did the "surgery" sawed her with a rusty bloody broken blade that she spat on and wiped dry before cutting. Waris' circumcision left her infibulated-- with only the smallest opening that made menstruation and urination extremely painful.
She does discuss this, one of the most abhorrent practices, but she also discusses much more. Much of her life was very happy-- although they were very poor. She loved both parents but ran away when she was 13 (through the desert with no shoes or water) or so to avoid a marriage to a much older man (for the price of five camels!).
Through an odd chain of events, she was able to go to London to be a servant for some wealthy relatives. And, when this family planned to return to Somalia, Waris decided to stay in London. She was very soon discovered by a photographer and almost immediately became a top model.
Waris' tells her story in simple, yet stark language-- she speaks her mind and is a likable and strong woman. Her memoir is definitely interesting and she's very open about all her feelings and thoughts. The only thing I would have preferred she talk about more were her feelings about Islam. I realize that genital mutilation is not mandated by the Koran-- it is only a tradition in many of these families. However, her thoughts about her religion and some of it's laws and archaic practices that affected her family (polygyny and its treatment of women, for instance), would have made the book a bit more intriguing. She didn't go into this at all.
All in all, this was a provocative memoir of someone raised so entirely differently than those of us in the West. Her introduction to our foreign culture- so different than her own- made for a very thoughtful and affecting read.
The author Cathleen Miller was one of my professors in college. She was an amazing professor in Creative writing and once I heard she had written a few books this was the first book I choose to read. I am honestly not a fan at all of autobiographies but Dirie and Miller worked amazingly well on this book. Dirie has an amazing story, from being born a desert Nomad in Somalia to her journey to become an international fashion model and later an Icon for this country. The writing style of this book is easy to read and get into, also as if talking to Dirie herself. The only thing I warn you all is that there are very graphic scenes of female circumcision which is very disturbing. Otherwise overall, my favorite books and it really opens your eyes on what occurs in the rest of the world and that anyone has a chance to fulfill their dream. If you are looking for an interesting read, this is it!
This is an international Bestseler from "Glamour's 1998 woman of the year.
This is a book about Waris Dirie that ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. The book is very intense ard tells of her story to becoming a almost teen married, forced to be married, running away in the desert, being in a dead end life but finds her way into becoming a runway model.....true story.
Waris who doesn't really know how old she is, was around the age of thirteen when her father told her she was to be married. The only way out of the arranged marriage was to runaway leaving all she had ever known and loved behind.
From sleeping under the stars in Africa , and surviving female genital mutilation as a little girl. To becoming an internationally renowned model, then to special ambassador for women's rights in Africa. This is an amazing story about an amazing woman!