Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

"I believe the most important priorities in the world are

nature, personal goodness, family, and friendship."

I loved this line in her book. This is the autobiography of Waris Dirie, a famous fashion model who tells her story of escaping her nomadic Somalian family as a 13 year old, after her father has arranged her marriage to an old man.

"But Papa, he's so old!" I still couldn't believe my father thought so little of me that he'd send me to live with an old man like that.

"That's the best kind, darling! He's too old to run around, chasing after other women, bringing home other wives. He's not going to leave you - he'll look after you. And besides" - Papa grinned proudly - "Do you know how much he paid for you?"

"How much?"

"FIVE camels! He's giving me FIVE camels." Papa patted my arm. "I'm so proud of you."

Her story takes you from her childhood living in a Somalia with her nomadic family. They live in the desert raising there animals in a constant search for food and water. She's a happy girl and loves her life in the desert. She even begs her mother for the young girls "right of passage" to have Female Circumcision at age 5. This is, obviously, something she didn't know anything about other than there were great celebrations when her older sisters had it done.

"Even though I suffered as a result of my circumcision, I was lucky. Things could have been much worse, as they frequently were for other girls. As we traveled throughout Somalia, we met families and I played with their daughters. When we visited them again, the girls were missing. No one spoke the truth about their absence, or even spoke of them at all. They had died as a result of their mutilation - from bleeding to death, shock, infection or tetanus. Considering the conditions in which the procedure is performed, that isn't surprising. What's surprising is that any of us survived."

Her story had me captivated from the beginning and I read the book within a few days. It's been a while since I've read a book this quickly but I had to find out how she went from a nomad to an international model. It was facinating to read her story of survival from her escape crossing the desert alone to ending up in London. Her flight to London was the first time she'd ever seen a flushing toilet or a white person. When she arrived in Hethrow airport she saw an escalator and snow for the first time.

Waris Dirie has remarkable courage and inner-strength. Her fighting spirit comes through in everything she does from figuring out how to escape in the desert, to how she'll deal with the photographer who discovered her and followed her for years in London.

She later became Special Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund to join the fight to stop female circumcision. To find out more about this program here. She's also started the Waris Dirie Foution to continue her fight.

"When I imagine that this year two million more little girls will go thorugh what I went through, it breaks my heart. It also makes me realize that each day this torture continues, angry women like myself will be produced, women who can never go back and recapture what was taken from them."

Waris Dirie Books
Her books Desert Flower, Desert Dawn, Desert Children and Letter To My Mother became international bestsellers. Waris is now working on a new book to be released in 2010. There will also be a movie coming out "Desert Flower".

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