Book Review by Sharon L. Shervington
The Girl with Three Legs
Written by Soraya Mire
At the age of 13 Soraya Mire, who is from Somalia, got a nasty surprise from her mother. Her mother described it as a gift, but in reality all of the girl’s external genitalia were removed. Then she was stitched up and left in agony. A few years later she was essentially secretly sold into an abusive marriage with a close cousin in Europe (who it turned out was a heroin dealer).
These two circumstances, genital mutilation and arranged marriage, are the cold realities of life for untold numbers of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, and this reality has spread to both Europe and the United States to the point where there are many doctors who are trained in reversing these chilling procedures.
These subjects, which essentially represent abuse protected by the word
culture, are still taboo in the many countries where they originate.
The Girl with Three Legs adds to a body of work by women like Ayaan
Hirsi Ali who refuse to accept the torture of a life cut off from
central aspects of their identity and being. And they have found allies
in American writers such as Alice Walker and others.
in the case of Ms. Ali, Ms. Mire describes a relationship with her
father that seems more loving and supportive than the one she shared
with her mother. Both had fathers who were of high rank in the
government and army during a turbulent time for the nation.
Ali, Ms. Mire also made a film about these issues called Fire Eyes,
which was well received here in the United States. Both women have paid a
high price for speaking out about this atrocity, from being harassed
and stalked to being cut off from family and family funds.
Although the subject matter is difficult, The Girl with Three Legs is a
story that is ultimately hopeful. Ms. Mire finds a talented therapist
who helps her fully explore her wounds and encourages her to become her
full self. And of course that means finding her voice. At that point on
a trip to Los Angeles while a student at a college in France, she
decides to make the U.S. her home and to dedicate her life to ending
female genital mutilation.
The Girl with Three Legs, by Soraya Mire; Lawrence Hill Books; $26.95; 384 pages