I spent last week reading Seven by Farzana Doctor and it is a must read as a woman, in my opinion. When I was sent the blurb about the book I thought it seemed interesting and worth a read so I accepted the copy that was sent to me and it was so much more than I expected.
I don’t want to say that I “enjoyed” the book because the topic is really serious and real, but I thought the book was really good and well written. In the novel, the narrator, Sharifa goes with her husband and young daughter to India to live for the better part of a year for his work. She is Indian and immigrated to the US when she was a child and still has family in India. Thinking of what to do to occupy her time while in India, aside from visiting family and homeschooling her daughter, she comes up with the idea to research her ancestor. Her great-great- grandfather, Abdoolally, was a prominent figure in Mumbai in the early 20th century – a sort of rags-to-riches story. He had 4 wives, 2 of whom died in childbirth, one that out-lived him, and one that he divorced. Little is known about the wife he divorced including why they divorced which for that time period and culturally should have been a big deal. Sharifa decides to interview family members and do research to try to find out more about Abdoolally’s life and his wives.
While she is in India, tensions rise in her religious community over a ritual that has been done for ages and continues to be done, khatna, or female circumcision. Some feel it is an important religious ritual and all girls need to have it done to be seen as “good” while others feel it is outdated, mutilation, and abusive. Within Sharifa’s own family there are people on opposite sides of the argument. Sharifa feels like it is a horrible practice, but she doesn’t feel particularly passionate about the topic or cause, feeling like it doesn’t really pertain to her. However, as she spends time in India, learns more about her family and about khatna, she realizes the ritual and subject hits a lot closer to home than she thought.
I honestly do not know much about this topic. I first learned that this was even a thing when I was in college and taking a class (I do not remember at all what the class was called but I think it was some humanities course on international cultures or something) and the professor talked about female circumcisions/genital cutting taking place in a tribe in Africa. I distinctly remember the professor telling us the details of the procedure and this one moment where everyone in the lecture hall inhaled (like one of those hissing, painful inhales) and crossed their legs at the same time. I really didn’t want to learn more about the practice and ignorantly I thought it only occurred in remote villages within tribes that were removed from the modern world. But, Seven showed me that it it happens in cities and in places that are in fact modern and even among people who are highly educated.
The book was so good and I looked forward to reading more each night before bed as I was in surgery recovery mode last week. There was a twist that I had predicted would happen but as the novel approached the end and the twist hadn’t happened I thought to myself “Okay, maybe that won’t happen and the author decided to not be as dark as I am (lol)” but then it did happen! I won’t spoil it for any of you, but I highly recommend the novel.
*I was sent this book complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.*