Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja

Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja

Fauziya Kassindja grew up in Togo and was very close to her father. Her family did not believe in tribal practices of polygamy or female genital mutilation. Kassindja is very close to her father, who makes sure she gets a proper education. When Kassindja's father dies though, things change. According to local tradition, the father's family takes over the home and family. Her aunt and uncle kicked her mom out of the home and then sold her into a marriage as a forth wife, with the promise that she would be circumsized.

With the help of her sister and mother, Kassindja fled to Germany where she stayed for two months trying to find out what to do. She met another African who told her that she should fly to America and ask for asylum, which is what she does. As soon as she enters the States she's taken into a prison for immigrants, after questionning and a strip search. Things degrade from there. Kassindja suffers through a prison riot, is placed in maximum security with murderers, suffers many health problems, and can't seem to get her case to court. With the help of her cousin she finds lawyers to help her cause and eventually become her very good friends.

It's impossible to read this story with a feeling of disgust towards how immigrants are treated. Immigrants should not be housed in the same areas as murderers. Even though it's not the point of the book, it becomes quite obvious as to how taxed the prison and court system is. Eight months to get a hearing? That's ridiculous. That being said, Kassindja did not help her circumstances. Coming in with a fake passport and not telling the full story, I'm sure, did not help her scenario at all.

I was interested to see that Canada was one of the first countries to consider female genital mutilation an acceptable immigration claim. I'm also happy to see that Kassindja's case helped break groud in the USA. I would have been interested in knowing what path she chose for her life and where her career was heading, but I guess the book was written too soon after the whole ordeal for her to understand what she was going to do.

First Line: "I returned to my cell after lunch."


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