Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad
Author: Waris Diri
Waris Dirie leads a double life-by day, she is an international supermodel and human rights ambassador for the United Nations; by night, she dreams of the simplicity of life in her native Somalia and the family she was forced to leave behind. Desert Flower, her intimate and inspiring memoir, is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about the beauty of African life, the chaotic existence of a supermodel, or the joys of new motherhood. Waris was born into a traditional Somali family, desert nomads who engaged in such ancient and antiquated customs as genital mutilation and arranged marriage. At twelve, she fled an arranged marriage to an old man and traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu -- the first leg of an emotional journey that would take her to London as a house servant, around the world as a fashion model, and eventually to America, where she would find peace in motherhood and humanitarian work for the U.N. Today, as Special Ambassador for the U.N., she travels the world speaking out against the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation, promoting women's reproductive rights, and educating people about the Africa she fled -- but still deeply loves. Desert Flower will be published simultaneously in eleven languages throughout the world and is currently being produced as a feature film by Rocket Pictures UK.
Straightforward, gruesome and insightful, Dirie's Desert Flower is remarkable. -- Time Out New York
"Waris's story is one of remarkable courage. From the deserts of Somalia to the world of high fashion, she battles against oppression and emerges a real champion. She is the most beautiful inspiration to anyone."
"Waris Dirie is a remarkable and courageous person. Her story is an inspiration. Not only did Waris overcome obstacles that would defeat most people, but as UNFPA Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, she will serve as a leader in the struggle to end all forms of discrimination against women."
"Succeeds not just as a polemic against [female genital mutilation] and its attendant horrors, but as a classic chronicle of immigrant hardship and triumph."
Joining the current rage for model memoirs...is Dirie, a native of Somalia, who has for more than a decade stalked the world's catwalks and appeared in numerous glossy magazines. This, however, is no fluff-job dictated into a tape recorder on transatlantic flights, then recomposed by a hired gun back in New York. Rather, it is a striking account of a personal odyssey that began in the Somali desert, where Dirie grew up without shoes, living amid nomadic tribes and tyrannized by patriarchal strictures. As a pubescent girl, Dirie was circumcised--a procedure described here in chilling detail--before escaping an arranged marriage to stay with an aunt in Mogadishu. Landing a job as a house servant in London, Dirie struggled to launch a modeling career while dodging British immigration authorities and the dreadful results of marriages of convenience. At the end of this affecting and at times very entertaining book, Dirie's metamorphosis from desert nomad into jetsetting nomad culminates in a post as a human rights ambassador to the UN, where, these days, Dirie campaigns for the eradication of female circumcision and women's rights around the globe. It's easy to forget that Dirie's memoir is a book about someone whose success has come from posing for the camera. Indeed, it is Dirie's remarkable lack of narcissism or entitlement that makes her so captivating a raconteur.
As a special ambassador to the United Nations, Somalian supermodel Dirie speaks out against the custom of genital mutilation, a "barbaric rite" that she underwent at age five. In this memoir, she "provides a fascinating glimpse of her separate lives--camel herder, supermodel, human rights activist--and manages to weave threads of drama, humor, and courage into each." (LJ 11/1/98)
....[G]ives a powerful inside view into the hardships of the nomadic Somali culture, where life is centered around the daily search for food and water, and young girls undergo genital cutting for arranged marriages. -- The New York Times Book Reviews
The tale of a courageous woman's struggles to come to terms with her Somali childhood, including her experience of female genital mutilation (FGM). Dirie ran away from home at age 13 to escape from an arranged marriage to a 60-year-old man. By age five, however, she had been introduced to FGM, the practice that would ensure her marriageability (and thus her marketability) in Somali culture. While Dirie's beloved mother held her down, a local "gypsy woman" used a dirty razor blade to scrape away at Dirie's external sexual organs and then sewed her up again, leaving only tiny holes to allow for urination and menstruation to occur in a compromised fashion. After fleeing her family, Dirie worked as a housemaid for a well-placed uncle in London, where she was "discovered" as a model and embarked on a successful career in fashion. She then underwent surgery to unstitch her vagina (in an unforgettable detail, she explains how amazing it felt to urinate in less than ten minutes and menstruate in less than ten days). More recently she's become an international UN ambassador on the issue of FGM after sharing her personal story with the magazine Marie Claire and on '20/20'. And indeed, the issue could hardly have won a better spokeswoman. Her book offers extraordinary firsthand insight into FGM, thought to be performed now on more than two million girls a year. It is also a well-told and truly engaging autobiography with an old-fashioned, Algeresque appeal: obscure African camel-tender becomes internationally admired (and vindicated) high-life heroine. On all counts, an outstandingly dramatic and moving tale.
A Short History of Reconstruction: 1863-1877
Author: Eric Foner
An abridged version of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, the definitive study of the aftermath of the Civil War, winner of the Bancroft Prize, Avery O. Craven Prize, Los Angeles Times Book Award, Francis Parkman Prize, and Lionel Trilling Prize.
An abridged version of the multiple award-winning Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution (1988). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)