Desert Flower

October 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm (News) (, , , , , , , )

0688172377.01.LZZZZZZZI recently picked up Desert Flower – The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad after finding out a German filmmaker had managed to snag the rights to it. I had heard of it before, but seeing as I only recently officially came into being a snot-nosed feminist, it hadn’t occurred to me to read it.

Waris Dirie’s story is at once heart-breaking and inspiring. One of twelve children, she was born into a Somalian pastoral nomad family and raised in the deserts among those goats and camels. With no ability to read, write or speak a language beside Somali, she didn’t seem to be destined for great things. In fact, she was rather average for a young Somalian female. She tended goats, played with her siblings, had no shoes or education. Like every girl she was expected to marry whoever her father wished in exchange for more camels.

And like every other girl, she was subjected to the awful, awful practice of female genital mutilation when she was only five years old.

Waris Dirie is now a renown supermodel and UN special ambassador for the elimination of FGM. While I read this book, it felt like a small part of me died when I came across her experiences with FGM. When she was five, her mother woke her in the early morning before anyone else was awake and taken out to the bushes where the “gypsy woman,” as she was referred to, waited for them. Dirie was given a root to bite down on and held down by her mother. The gypsy woman herself used a razor stained with the blood of countless other young, helpless girls that this woman cleaned with her saliva and nothing else.

By African standards, this is relatively cleanly, apparently. Anything can be used – razors, glass, sharp rocks and when nothing else is to be had, teeth. The severity of the mutilation ranges from the removal of the clitoral hood to the full on removal of the labia majora, minora and everything else, then the girls are sewn shut. Dirie experienced the latter form – thorns from a nearby bush were used to create punctures for the sewing. After this, Dirie’s legs were bound together in order to create a minimal, “tidy” scar and she was left in a specially built hut to heal for a whole month.

Many girls die from blood loss, tetanus, infection, gangrene and other horrific side-effects of the “operation,” which include pelvic infections, severe UTIs and more. One of Dirie’s sisters bled to death. Dirie herself suffered for many years because she was left with only a small hole through which urine and menstrual blood were supposed to be allowed to escape. She was able to get surgery later in life, but will never regain much of the feeling in that region of her body because the surgery was performed back in the 90s. Nowadays, with medical advances, there are doctors who specialize in reconstructive surgery in order to help women regain feeling and a sense of pride in their bodies again.

I remember being in an Ethics class and the topic of FGM coming up. I argued against it because I feel, as a woman, that it is a cruel, unnecessary and awful tradition to uphold that gives a whole continent a bad reputation. I was told my Western privilege was showing – that it was necessary to approach some traditions with respect and the dignity it deserves because – while it is not my own culture – it is someone else’s cultural practice.

I call bullshit on that. I agree that the Western way is not always the right way, but I see no reason to accept a practice that is so barbaric. Many of the cultures FGM is practiced in are Muslim; men argue that the Q’ran demands it. Nowhere in the Q’ran does it state that you are to maim and brutalize your women. FGM – I refuse to deign it with the term “female circumcision” because it undercuts the severity of what is done – was invented by men in order to oppress women and make them pliable through their pain. Those who argue that male circumcision is equally cruel – what on Earth are you thinking? We do not cut off young boys’ penises. We don’t divorce them from their sexual organs in order to oppress them. There is a vast difference between a small surgical procedure in which the foreskin is removed and the hacking off and permanent crippling of young defenseless girls.

It makes me sick to my stomach that around 2 MILLION girls a year are at risk of being victims of FGM. I hope that, through education and redirection of practices, it will be possible to decrease and maybe eliminate the practice entirely, though it will take a long time. Meanwhile, here is the trailer to Desert Flower where Dirie is played by Liya Kebede:

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Beginnings

August 31, 2009 at 4:58 pm (Life, School) (, , , , , )

The first day of the new semester has come and gone. I’m not sure I feel any better or wiser; I just feel like I’ve progressed further down the line of education. I suppose that’s part of the deal, eh? My schedule’s going to be pretty full with all the practicing and registering with the DMV for my learner’s permit and God knows what else I can come up with.

I’ve been going to bed at nine. I think I might try and push that up to ten, just so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night because my bladder is so ridiculously full. That’s one nightly ritual I can live without. However, ten is the latest simply because I’ll probably be getting up between 7.00 and 7.30 for the rest of the semester. This allows me to hitch a ride to school with C. Yeah, it gets me there an hour earlier than I have to be, but I figure I can take a book along, listen to music or actually socialize with people for a change. I managed to avoid that for much of the last semester. I’m making an active effort to no longer do that.

So I arrived in the music building a full hour earlier than I had to and immediately proceeded to fall back into old habits, which includes sitting quietly and not interacting with whoever may be in the hall with me. At some point, one guy looked at me as I dropped my iPod back into my bag and said, “Did you dye your hair?”

“Yeah, I did. And cut it, too.”

“OH MAN! I’m sorry! You’ve been chilling there the whole time and I didn’t even recognize you. It looks great. How was your summer?”

I was a little stunned because I end up considering myself fairly mousy for most part. I know I’m not, but I can fade into the background pretty well if I want to. I didn’t feel super confident my first semester. As I’ve stated here before, I’m getting over that phase. I need to be more outgoing, talk to people and just be myself. I’m just surprised this guy had noticed my existence the semester before at all. I got up and chatted with him for a bit, then more people drifted in, all of whom also recognized me. I talked to them until they had to go to class, at which point I sat back down and watched some more of Pushing Daisies on my iPod.

Someone sat next to me and I tried not to listen in on their conversation on the phone. I’d thought the voice sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure. Turned out it was T, one of the girls who’d been in my class during the first summer session. She signed off the phone and we talked for about half an hour; turns out we have some classes together. I should be okay.

My music theory class is small, which is fantastic. Same prof as last semester, as I’d requested. Thank God it went through. Not that I have anything against the other guy who teaches it, but Prof. S has a different understanding of teaching that meshes well with my personality and way of learning. Once I find something I work well with, I try not to change it. My lab class also runs at the same time it did last year. I felt a little uncertain during the half-hour break between Chorus and Lab, but some new girl broke the ice by telling me she thought I was really pretty and it went from there.

All in all, I’d say it’s been a pretty good day. I finished a book I’d been postponing reading for quite some time due to the fact it was my dad who handed it to me. My father and I don’t usually agree on what either of us consider a great read. This book, Eine exklusive Liebe is not something I’d consider a FANTASTIC read, but it was a good book. It was written by a woman a little older than my sister in an attempt to reconcile and explore her grandparents’ double suicide and how that tied into her understanding of herself and her family, and to rediscover some of the history lost in the concept of “We don’t talk about that.” I’d say pick it up if you understand German; it’s not a must read, but I wouldn’t consider it a waste of paper and time, either.

It was just a little ironic how the book closed with naming the locksmith’s fee. My dog’s life had basically been reduced to a hospital bill and an euthanasia fee. I wonder if it is part of human nature to grasp at numbers in an attempt to understand something, even as it constitutes a cruel twist because there is simply no way of attaching monetary value to a life.

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I Call Shenanigans

June 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm (Writing) (, , , , )

I was rereading Shirley Darsgaard’s series last night when I came across a section in “Witch Hunt” in which the protagonist’s friend, Darci, is putting up with a MAJOR red-flag guy. Ophelia, the protagonist, notices this and immediately bitches and moans about it. Her grandmother, Abby, is supposed to be this loving mentor figure who understands everything.

And, guess what? Ophelia points out Danny’s red flag behavior and all Abby has to say about it is to the effect of, “Some men just want to be the center of their partner’s universe. That’s Darci’s problem, not yours.”

Seriously, ma’am? I get that you’re older and were raised in the Appalachians and whatever other stupid-ass excuse you can come up with. But how DARE you hold Abby up as a prime example of good female knowledgability and matronliness, and then have her say something like that?

Danny is a red flag male. He controls Darci, pushing different clothes and different beliefs on her. He tells her what to think and what to say. He tells her it’s “for her own good.” He isolates her from her friends and loved ones and forces himself on her by pushing Darci to let him move in with her after a murder occurs in her house instead of letting Darci find other real estate. That kind of behavior is a warning sign of future abuse to come, and you basically have your character green-light this because it’s “Darci’s problem”?

I call bullshit. I feel angry enough about this to actually write to the author.

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A Book Review

April 1, 2009 at 5:31 pm (Writing) (, , , )

Have you ever picked up a book and started reading it, and half-way through, you start wondering why the hell you do this to yourself? Yeah. This is precisely what I experienced with this one in particular. I brought it with me after I found it in our house in England, hoping to kill the few days of boredom during my stay here in D.C. back in December. When I read books, I usually tend to finish them out of some sad sense of obligation. I believe this stems from the fact that I would really like people to finish my own damn stories.

I really, really wish I hadn’t done it with this time. It’s a waste of paper, time and brainpower.

delilah-street The book I speak of is called Brimestone Kiss (vom) by Carole Nelson Douglas. It is, apparently, the second installment in a series. I have not, I repeat NOT, read the first book. Perhaps this would have enhanced my understanding of the general writing.

The story follows Delilah Street, an orphan who hails from Kansas and used to be a TV reporter, then moved to Las Vegas after she got fired from that gig. Street claims she wanted to follow a trail regarding her heritage – there’s a TV show that involves live autopsies and solving said crimes, one of the corpses on that table was a carbon copy of her, down to the “blue gemstone twinkling in my left nostril.”

Delilah Street is, much like our favorite literary heroine Bella, a self-insert Mary Sue. She has “issues,” is anything but eloquent, yet somehow every male lusts after her. She keeps talking about how fat she feels at 5’9” (or something) and being “curvy,” yet somehow she still fits into vintage gowns. (Remember, vintage clothing runs small!) Waahh, wahh, wahh. She also seems to harbor mysterious powers that she deems herself a “mercury medium,” because she has an affinity for silver and black and white movies or whatnot.

Naturally, because she is so hot, Street has a boyfriend from the previous book. Said boyfriend is a Mexican macho man who thinks that his sex is as magical as Jon Lajoie’s sex moves, which means she will automatically be cured of any and all potential rape trauma she may or may not have. While he may not be the Hulk Hogan of slamming muff (OR IS HE?), he seems to do the trick for Street despite a decided lack of chemistry. Reading any of those scenes is flat-out boring. Good thing you have a warning sign – the second you start seeing something Italicized, the likelihood is that it will be Spanish, meaning that the characters are “whispering sweet Spanish nothings to each other.” (Cue projectile vomit.)

Next to being an overprivileged twatwaffle who somehow does not have to pay rent because she’s so pretty (and her landlord wants to bang her, natch), Street moonlights as a paranormal investigator. There is no investigative work involved in this book. All that happens is the following: Delilah has an idea. Delilah goes to talk to someone. Delilah is sexually harassed by random supernatural person. Delilah sulks and mopes about how hard it is to be “large” and “ungainly.” Delilah has sex with Ric, Ric make wounded ego all better. Wash, rinse, repeat. A series of entirely random, unconnected events somehow leads to a lair of Egyptian vampires who are trying to resurrect someone or another. And I do mean random events. Even after the revelation of who her enemy is, the events do not make sense. They never connect with each other at all, it is never clear why on Earth they’re targeting Delilah when they’re really going after Ric. Delilah has little to no combat skills, she just has protectors (a silver “familiar” and a wolf-dog-thing) who make sure her arse is not grass. She also happens to have something of a voice inside her head that she’s dubbed Irma, which seems to be the voice of a sex-starved Sex and The City star.

In short, seriously. Do not pick up this book. It was an awful waste of money and I will hurt my mother for ever buying it in the first place. It reads like a rough first draft and, if you want me to be honest, the first draft of my own nonsensical novel reads better than this steaming pile of shit.

An excerpt:

“And this neat white blouse that buttons down the front under the jacket you left in the car. Surely you didn’t want me to rip it open, ruin it, just to see your breasts. Just to see the full tops of your breasts inside those push-up bras you wear.” Buttons flew as he bared me.

“I don’t wear push-up bras,” I said indignantly. I didn’t need them. Oh. His hands were underneath the satin cups, pushing me mostly out.

Before I could react, he reached down to pull my tight linen skirt up to my hips until it was a cummerbund.

“And you don’t wear hose in the heat, of course, but, what, no panties, not even a shred?”

I murmured mindlessly in self-defense, because I did indeed wear a brand-new thong and it still felt darn uncomfortable up my back crack. So much for Irma’s lingerie advice. His finger found that narrow bridge of silky fabric and teased it aside.

His hands ran up my bare arms to my secured wrists, linked fingers with me as his body leaned hard against my mostly naked parts.

“You like this vertical, I know, Delilah. And I’m very vertical at the moment. I think you can tell.”

The more intimate Ric got with my body, the more he used my formal name. I moaned. “Por favor, por favor,” I murmured, knowing how much Spanish from my mouth pleased him.

Like, really? I know a lot of ESL people and NO ONE ever opens their mouth to birth something as cheesy as what Ric utters.

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Romance Novels

March 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm (Fun) (, , , , , , )

Today, some of us wasted their time by nearly having an asthma attack from laughing so hard at romance novels. I saw some terrible things, but nothing quite as terrible as this.

An excerpt:

Another couple flicks of my knight’s supple wrists, and I find myself naked and thrown headfirst over the wooden bench, my ass sticking straight up in the air. Gorgeous Knight, fully clothed, spreads my butt cheeks wide, whips his giant cock out of his breeches, and takes me from behind.

We continue to fuck doggy-style over the bench for several minutes. . . . I buck up against him hard mid-thrust, tipping him off balance. Once he’s lost his footing, I pull myself off his cock – my cunt makes a disappointed queeb sound as we separate…I come two more times when I spin myself around and around on his cock like a top, and take the last few strokes down from the rear.

Yes, I laughed. I am also twelve years old. YOUR POINT?

Some of the other “F Reviews” are also priceless, but that one took the cake. I fully blame Ticcara for my near-death earlier this afternoon when she showed me that site and, specifically, that book review. A fit of laughter and water do not mix well.

Among other things, I stumbled across the following collection of romance similes and metaphors. Including, but not limited to:

…then he kissed her, like a butterfly kisses the windshield of a Porsche on the Autobahn.

or

His manhood stood at full attention, stiff and stony like the vice president.

The latter was clearly written BOE (before Obama era). And now I need the brain bleach because I should not even be thinking about the lovely Joe Biden like that. I feel violated and dirty.

And because everyone loves mocking romance novels, I came across the Bad Romance Novel Generator. BEHOLD THE GLORY:

The climate was snowy in Gotham City. Amidst this repulsive scenery smiled the trivial Dr. Evil. Elsewhere, in Gotham City, the birds were gasping haphazardly. Raquel had the most illustriously illustriously gnome-like spleen of all, and all the town bled profusely at her death-defying fortune. Moreover, she was cruelly skilled in professional singing.

Presently, Igor entered the Singing Berserked Timberwolf Pub in search of some cotton balls. To his surprise, he found the illustriously suicidal Senora Zapato instead. Their suicidal eyes met, and he instantly forgot all about his lubricated desire for a watermelon. He flinched, and it was then that she knew he wanted her like a ham & cheese sandwich dancing suggestively. She slapped him cruelly. Then he licked her like a throbbing praying mantis. With hedonistic skill, she strangled his spleen. He tackled her sweetly, and she responded by jumping suggestively. He fantasized gayly and yearned to attack Raquel with an axe. He caressed her suggestively, and she responded by singing gayly. He belched ruthlessly and yearned to swim. Not to be outdone, he became discombobulated and wrang her sweetly on her eyes. She smiled at him sweetly, and told him that he made love like a poodle. Finally, after a marvelous climax, he fantasized and tackled her eyes like a suicidal berserked timberwolf beneath a sultry sky.

Suddenly, Igor burst into the room, and, finding his wife amidst a most saber-rattling, adulterous situation, softly killed them both with a lot of cheese. In time, the saber-rattling legend of the two lovers faded unwittingly into the gnome-like ebb-and-flow of the supermarket, lost among the lubricated appeal of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

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Deathwish & Writing

March 2, 2009 at 10:28 pm (News, Writing) (, , , )

If you like dark urban fantasy and a lot of snark, action and lovable characters, please look into my favorite lady of the genre, Rob Thurman. The newest installment in her Leandros series, Deathwish, is being released tomorrow. I rarely beg, but I do think she’s a wonderful writer and person who rescues abused dogs and would like to see her books promoted more. I’m doing my best to spread the word.

The list of books in which her writing appeared:

  • Nightife (March 2006)
  • Moonshine (March 2007)
  • Madhouse (March 2008)
  • Mistletoe and Wolfsbane (October 2008)
  • Deathwish (March 2009)

Her new book Trick of Light will be debuting this fall and will be the beginning of a series named Trickster. Ms. Thurman can be found on LiveJournal. I’m not exactly begging, but just making anyone who reads this aware of this awesome lady. I know I will be hitting Barnes & Noble hard tomorrow.

In other news, I will soon be posting a list of recommended authors and books, and books on my reading list. Or something. In the meantime, I have vowed to start writing again, potentially collaborating with my friend Anna. I am currently thinking about working with the story “The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body,” to be found here if you’re interested.

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My Funny Valentine

February 15, 2009 at 1:37 pm (Life) (, , )

Spending several days pretty much holed up at home is, as everyone ought to know, not the best way to spend time. Even though it may involve wasting time on the most awesome website in the world. (Jezebel.com, yo! Check it out!) Getting invited to a special sales day in a bookstore in downtown D.C. was a Godsend.

I did not spend Valentine’s Day holed up inside muttering about how much I hated the “day of love.” I managed to avoid a lot of pink and frills this year, which makes me happy.

I purchased three books: East o’ the Sun & West o’ The Moon, a compilation of 59 Norwegian folk tales by George Webbe Dasent. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser. Flu – The Great Story of the Great Influence Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata.

Fairy tales have always been special to me. My family strongly encouraged creativity when I grew up. I have little to no understanding of Rococco France and thought it would be interesting. And the book on the flu is an entirely different matter I will return to at some other point. All in all, though, I would say I had a great time.

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