The Desert Flower – A book review

I read this book in the context of my book club. A heart wrenching reading on a phenomenal woman’s story.

I asked Nimo Billow to write the review, because this book touches on her heritage as a young Somali woman and I knew that her authorship would be from a place of knowing, a place of instinctive and empathetic understanding. She honoured us with the below review of the book:

WARIS DIRIE, a name we should all be familiar with. It means Desert Flower and so is the title of her book. A book on courage, strength, resilience, empowerment and Female Genital MutilationΒ  (FGM).Β  It is a book that provokes all sorts of emotions (get a tissue, you might cry). A book that shades light on a cultural practice that has robbed women of the very thing that defines their womanhood. A practice that aims at breaking a woman’s spirit in the most intimate way. A practice that is justified by some bogus & inane reasoning that isn’t at all mentioned in the Quran. A practice that to date, affects millions of women around the world. A practice that is inhumane and needs to be abolished. What this book does is explain in depth what FGM is and its everlasting effect.

But it’s not all sad, you’ll find the strength of a woman in this book. A story of a tragic beginning with a beautiful ending. A tale narrated simply and honestly.


The author takes you on a journey from Somalia to UK, vividly describing her experiences of both worlds. One world represents her scar, the other hope. Ideally, home is a place that should represent safety, but what would you call it if it is where your womanhood is ripped off and you become a commodity, an item that is traded for goats and camels? Running away at young age, tracking the desert for days without food or water, facing a lion, escaping what would have resulted into rape, living in a foreign country slaving for your uncles family and not knowing the local language are some of the challenges Waris faced when she decided she wanted a better life than one her parents had chosen for her.

Desert flower

This book described the extra-ordinary life lived by Waris in the most ordinary way. Waris fights to overcome any obstacle that stands in her way. She manages to make a life worth living out of her situation. FGM is a term we hear every now and then but do you know what it truly entails? Do you understand what it does to a woman? The author states, β€œAll my life I’ve tried to think ofΒ  reason for my circumcision. Maybe if I could have thought of a good reason, I could accept what they’d done to me.” No explanation in the world would come close to justifying this horrific practice.

Reading this book, I thought to myself, would I be able to forgive my parents for subjecting me to this horrific act? Would I go back home, to the very place that destroyed my identity? Would I want to recall the day I lost a part of me on a rock in the middle of the desert? Do I have the strength to tell the world that I’m not a complete woman? When sexual pleasure is all but a myth to me, what would I do? Well, I do noy know what I cloud have done but Waris, she faced her demons head on and made peace with it. She is an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with.

Despite the challenges she faced, Waris goes on to become a great model, who is respected and adored by the world after she tells her story and now a woman whose name is associated with fighting FGM. A survivor and a spokesperson for millions of women around the world who suffer in silence.



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