‘Show, don’t tell’ is one of the fundamental lessons I learned about writing novels. Hanan, one of my characters in Fabulous Veils, is a real victim of genital circumcision. Suffering as as child wasn’t the only tax she paid. The past, the present and the future are connected and interconnected. As a young wife and a mother-to-be she still paid her share of physical suffer. And throughout the novel she shows us, instead of telling, how this barbarous act limited her choices and deformed her identify. On the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation I share a glimpse from Hanan’s story, hoping to speak out for the less fortunate, who weren’t created mute and yet were muted by force and mentally wrapped in Fabulous Veils.
Fabulous Veils Glimpse:
“It was before dawn when Fatma was ready to collect the pieces of her day. She started to review it backward. Abou-Abdo’s wrestling rounds on her bones and her sex. Her apologies to Aziz for making his wife late and her promises not to repeat it. Aziz’s sudden visit to check where Hanan had been all day long, if she was truly with her mother for a checkup and what was Fatma’s complaint. Om-Sayed’s scream upon seeing Fatma fainting on the stairs. A foggy duration that Fatma couldn’t remember. Strangers’ comments, “Wahedi Allah ya benty.” Hanan’s tears in the microbus avoiding looking at Fatma and her back to her. Her words to Hanan while waiting for the microbus, “It’s sunnah Hanan. I couldn’t object.” “Your grandmother insisted Hanan.” “Your dad didn’t even tell me ahead.” The nurse disgustedly handing the prescription to Fatma. Dr. Shahira’s firm voice, “Don’t worry about the costs, I’ll send you to one of my friends and he’ll do it for you free of charge. Just go and don’t ignore her health. She’s young and pregnant and it will affect her and the baby if you ignore it.” Dr. Shahira’s paper with the long list of analysis and medicines scribbled on both sides. Her employer’s lecture on how sex would be torturing for Hanan. How they had caused her a lifetime defection in her genital organs. How the ignorant daya had cut bigger parts than what was usually done. How the area was badly infected. Hanan leaving the room with the nurse as per the doctor’s request. The nurse joining the room after the doctor’s weary diagnosis. “Circumcision!” repeated three times by the doctor. Dr. Shahira’s rage while examining Hanan and her loud voice.
Having no one but God, Fatma washed and spread the praying rug Ahmed had brought her from the first money he ever made. She placed her forehead on the green velvet mat, soaking it with her agony. Her do’aa paired with Sayed’s loud snores, only caused her prayers to be more sincere. Not enjoying sex was normal for her, she had never enjoyed such a tasteless thing. Fatma had heard a long time ago before getting married that sex was a romantic thing. From leilat el dokhla she had wondered why people spread such rumors and wrong information. And what could be romantic in a heavy body lying on top of her, smelling of sweat and shisha and pushing her aside after a few minutes? She had got used to that, but pain, bleeding, examinations and medicines? Poor Hanan. Wasn’t it enough for her the sadness she had digested between these walls? Now she had no options but suffering daily except on her period days.”