The Girl With Three Legs is a brutally honest memoir about the horror that is female genital mutilation (FGM). At age thirteen, Soraya starts being teased by her friends for having 'three legs'. When she goes to ask her mother what the nickname means, her mother tells her that she is going to receive a 'gift'. Soraya's flesh is cut off (she describes hearing the sound of the scissors cutting her) and sewn up, leaving her with an opening just the size of a cotton bud/Q-tip. The memoir describes frankly the medical problems that this caused and the long recovery period Soraya faced when she moved away from Somalia to Europe. It also covers Mire's later career as an activist, campaigning for the end of FGM.
The Girl With Three Legs is a very successful memoir in that it shines a light on an issue that is important and could do with more attention. The scenes where Soraya is mutilated and when she faces pain and complications afterwards are graphic and I found myself wincing in horror. Mire also successfully shows how ingrained the attitudes leading to FGM are in the certain cultures and how it is often women doing this to their daughters for fear of their daughters being seen as unclean. When Soraya becomes an activist in her later life, she faces opposition from her native culture and even ostracism from her own family.
That being said, The Girl With Three Legs isn't the most well-written memoir I have read. It seems to jump around a lot and in certain places was hard to follow, especially when Mire describes the Somalian culture at the beginning of the book. There are also sections when Soraya is going through an incredibly tough time after the surgery that are hard to follow; her descriptions blur into each other and it's hard to always know what she is referring to. The chapters about Soraya becoming an activist could have been edited down a little.
I am glad I read this book. FGM does occur in Western countries, where immigrants send their daughters back to Somalia or Egypt for the treatment in their school holidays, or even find a private doctor willing to carry it out for them. The Girl With Three Legs shows why this is always unacceptable, no matter how tolerant of other cultures we want to be.
Verdict: Memoir about an important issue that is hard to follow in places.
Source: From the publisher via NetGalley
Score: 3 out of 5