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As the child of a top Somali general in the 1960s, Soraya Mire’ grew up spying on her family, trying to make sense of the oppressively secretive atmosphere and to comprehend the complicated web of bribery, adultery, sexual hypocrisy, and drugs that encircled her clan. Yet none of her research revealed the two most important secrets her parents kept from her until it was too late: first the female genital mutilation (FGM) that her mother forced her to undergo at the age of 13 to make her a proper Somali bride, and second, her arranged marriage to an older, abusive first cousin in return for a dowry. These traumatic events marked Mire’s psyche and informed the direction of her eventual career as a documentary filmmaker and activist for Africa girls’ and women’s rights. In this harrowing yet inspiring memoir she recounts the horror of being strapped to a table as people in white coats sheared off her labia and clitoris-or “third leg”-and stitched her vaginal opening shut, in a painful and debilitating custom intended to secure her virginity. Subsequent sexual assaults exacerbated Mire’s anguish and drove her into depression and disordered eating, for which she successfully sought help in the forms of acupuncture, counseling, and Native American healing. On finding herself, Mire’, whose film about FGM, Fire Eyes, won a Human Rights Award at the UN, writes, "I am a woman who is not defined by what has been taken from me but by what I create with what I have." {Renate Robertson}
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