DO THEY HEAR YOU WHEN YOU CRY by Fauziya Kassindja


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 The harrowing and by now well-publicized story of a young West African girl fleeing the much-debated ritual of female circumcision and seeking asylum in the US. This worm's-eye view of her torturous incarceration at the hands of the INS is so well told that, even knowing the outcome in advance, you are held in suspense by the sheer horror of her ordeal. Seventeen-year-old Kassindja fled her native Togo the night before her circumcision and arranged marriage were to take place. Still in her wedding clothes, with only $3,000 of her sister's money, a fake passport, and the covert guidance of a refugee smuggler, she flew to DÅsseldorf, Germany. There she befriended a German woman in the airport lounge and went home with her. Within a few weeks, she met a young Nigerian who offered her yet another passport and ticket, this time to Newark, N.J., where she had family and felt sure she could find refuge from the mutilation and possible death that awaited her back in Togo. Instead, she found herself in Esmor prison in Elizabeth, N.J., and, over the course of nearly two years, a series of similar jails where abuse, humiliation, malnutrition, filth, and human rights violations were the norm. In deceptively plain English, rich with fear, pain, and unflinching detail, Kassindja, a devout Muslim, takes the reader on an unforgettable religious pilgrimage into the many-tiered Inferno of the INS penal system. Through the Herculean efforts of a devoted legal team who took her case pro bono (one lawyer, Bashir, is her coauthor), Kassindja was finally granted asylum on appeal, and now resides in Arlington, Va. Readers will find themselves testing their naivetÇ by how many times they stop to remind themselves that this story takes place in the mid-1990s in America. A Midnight Express in New Jersey--this book will make one by turns, angry, afraid, and ashamed of one's complacency.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-31832-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1998