Monday, June 24, 2013

No Laughter Here

According to the recent Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a medical journal published by the Mayo Clinic, immigrant women and girls who have undergone female circumcision are appearing for care in the exam rooms of physicians in America. This relatively easily readable article is entitled “Female Genital Cutting: AnEvidence-Based Approach to Clinical Management for the Primary Care Physicians.” For anyone like myself who is not familiar with the technical aspects of the procedure and the different degrees of female genital cutting, it was illuminating. There are about 400,000 such women and girls in America and I was glad to see the problem brought to light for doctors and nurses. Interestingly, it is founded in culture, not religion, and seen in both Christian and Muslim families depending on the country and has been declared illegal by the World Health Organization. In Egypt the procedure is the rule, not the exception among young girls.

Cultures collide over these patients. A women or girl who seeks treatment for the serious sequelae of female genital cutting may encounter doctors and nurses who are uncomfortable exploring the issue. Many American health care providers don’t even discuss routine sexual issues with patients very easily, let alone this. It's difficult.  And even if they want to talk to a patient about it, what kinds of questions are culturally appropriate?

There are few young adult novels that deal openly with this clash of cultures. One excellent one is No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia, published in 2004. In this novel, a smart young American girl named Akilah Hunter, whose mother happens to be a child welfare worker, finds that her best friend Victoria is withdrawn and will not laugh upon her return from a family visit to Nigeria.  What Akilah doesn’t know at first is that Victoria has undergone a coming-of-age ceremony involving female circumcision and has been emotionally and physically traumatized. Sparks fly when Akilah finds out and the two cultures, two families, collide over helping Victoria.

On a side note, the book also deals with Akilah’s beginning menstruation in an engaging way that would be useful to all girls.

I'm currently reading Rita Williams-Garcia's newest novel, P.S. Be Eleven. It's wonderful and I am looking forward to writing about that next.  

1 comment:

  1. Rita is awesome! I haven't read this book. It sounds very compelling.