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My Meeting with The Girl With Three Legs

How do you put yourself back together after your family has hurt you so deeply?

by
Phyllis Chesler

Bio

November 9, 2011 - 1:00 pm

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Soraya has raised funding in order to go on her book tour. She wants to promote the issues raised by her book, the role that women play in enforcing this and other atrocities such as arranged child marriage and arranged cousin marriage — all routinely practiced in the African and Muslim world. Soraya shrinks from nothing. She chose to begin her book tour in Minneapolis where there is the largest concentration of Somalis in America.

“The Somali women attacked me more than the men did,” she tells me:

They said I was against Islam, that I was a poor representative for Somalia. More Somali men, especially young men, are supporting what I’m saying than the women are. Can you believe it?

I suggested that she read my book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, which she immediately does. Before she leaves, she begs me for the copy she has begun to read and underline. Well, how can I say no? Still, she is surprised when I tell her that most feminist leaders tried to warn me away from this topic and that despite endorsements from some major feminists, the book has yet to find its audience and is not being taught in Women’s Studies programs.

Soraya responds, “Do you know that none of the leading female experts on FGM and none of the other Somali feminists have helped me? This really hurts. Some promised to write the Introduction to the book or to endorse it but then they all became ‘too busy.’ I do not understand this.”

For years, Soraya performed for no money in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues; she rubbed shoulders with all the feminist-Hollywood celebrities. She believed that those who are trying to help women would certainly help her.

And then she discovered that the women editors whom her agent approached were all interested in her book—but only if she “prettied it up a bit.”

They wanted me to make it lighter, more elegant, softer. One of the leading feminist presses wanted it ‘prettier.’ That was the word they used. Each publisher who already had one book on FGM or one book by a high profile Somali or Muslim dissident feminist said that they already had that market covered.

Said I: “When I was trying to sell my manuscript about the world’s first female serial killer (the prostituted woman in Florida), many women editors told me that ‘she was not a good feminist role model,’ that ‘she never seems to smile.’ I wonder whether true crime editors have ever expected Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, or the Green River Killer to serve as role models for humanity.”

When I became ill I shelved the project.

Next: Soraya fires her agent and finds her new literary home…

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