Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

I bought myself this book at one of my lowest moments. I had no idea if I would get my visa in time enough to pursue my Construction Studies at Wits. I really had no plan Bs that excited me. The ones that did excite me were beyond my reach, either because my parents did not want to hear anymore of my Gender/Philosphy or Chocolatiering degree or by not being accepted by universities or schools that would have made this choice more justifiable or palatable to my parents. I kept on wondering if the hard time I was having with the South African Embassy was really a sign that I should listen to my soul and ride against the current. I also feared that not listening to my inner voice would mean a difficult future. All those texts about signs and listening such as The Alchemist and tales like Jonah being swallowed by the big fish haunted me. The pain was actually immeasurable and in a world where emotional health is hardly recognised,I even felt guilty for letting such mere happenings cripple me. This was how and why I bought the Desert Flower, In fact the book’s cover reads:
To chebet,
When Souls crashed and the only escape was a book of a crushed soul that still rose. I love you.
Always,
Chebet

Every single thing happens for a reason. This book has strengthened my belief in this statement. I think Waris Dirie’s life is testament of the wonderful dance between determinism and self-will. At the end of the day the circumstances that you are born into shape your experience but even within that experience, there are decisions you will make. I loved it when she had moments of simply just knowing when things would happen and this was by listening, to her heart, brains, body and soul. As a small shepherd girl she had learnt to know when it would rain and as a young woman she could tell when she had met the man who she would have babies with and as a woman she knew when her mother would be reunited with her. Such knowing pushed her to live her life so unapologetically and I found this very inspiring.

Female circumcision is at the centre of this book. As a Maasai there were so many practices I could deeply empathise with even though I am the lucky girl who has never had to escape an early marriage or female circumcision. Waris took me through what it means to be circumcised and why this is really a problematic practice. Okay, I did know that this was bad but she showed me just how bad and cruel it all is. From problems with urinating to the most unbearable periods to the fear of having sex with men who would frown at her hole of a vagina to being robbed of sexual pleasure. It was horrifying and just imagining it made me twitch. So now more than ever, I feel pushed to actually do something about FGM both the physical one which is worse and the emotional one which comes about with the policing and restriction of female sexuality by our societies.

Lastly, Waris’ boldness and defiance just stands out for me. It was the reason I even bought the book in the first place. She simply stands tall inspite of everything, just like a hill smoothened by weathering. She is a victim but she is also channeling her victimhood in a way that ensures no one else has to get hurt in the same way as she. I am so proud and inspired by her.She is also quite a good story teller and in as much as it was a tragic read, it was also really enjoyable. It made me want to be a Desert Flower in all aspects of my life too.