*Review: Seven by Farzana Doctor

“… while the men might have made the rules, it is the women, women I’ve loved, who’ve enforced them.”

When I read the synopsis of the book, I was a bit hesitant about reading the book as I felt it might be a very heavy read but as I made my way through Sharifa’s life, I couldn’t get myself to put the book down!

Sharifa is a school teacher in Manhattan who lives with her husband – Murtuza and her 7 year old daughter – Zeenat. While life for her is passing by fairly well she seems to be bored of her job and possibly even her marriage. The family decides to move to Mumbai for eight months where Murtuza has a teaching gig and Sharifa takes this opportunity to research about her great great-grandfather Abdoolally.

The story is a whirlwind after they reach Mumbai and one of Sharifa’s cousins – Fatema starts talking to her about khatna – Female Genital Mutilation, i.e. removal of the prepuce tissue off the clitoris also called “haraam ki boti” – which is practiced in India, mostly by the Dawoodi Bohra community which Sharifa and her family are a part of.

The story takes a complex route from here as Sharifa goes on to learn about multiple family secrets and how she and her favorite cousins decide to fight against this practice. It depicts the struggle of the women of this community from generations. This book while talking about khatna with urgency flows smoothly to educate and spread awareness.

The book is quite predictable to me on various occasions but this predictability helps me to realize the sad and horrid truth of human behavior when it comes kinship and community. But on finding out the reason for naming the book Seven, it left me terrified!

Seven is an inspiring, igniting and borderline soul-crushing story about many Dawoodi Bohra women who have had to go through the horrid practice of khatna. It is a story of love for family, self discovery and sadly betrayal.

I will be honest in telling you that I was not aware of this practice until I read this book. As an Indian woman, I know of many ill practices against women in the country, I also know of multiple laws which have helped curb these practices but Khatna is one practice I was oblivious to. This is a terrific book for which I only have praises on how it has subtly addressed this issue.

I would highly recommend you all to read Seven. I feel more educated and informed as a reader and as a feminist. I rate this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Dundurn Publishers for providing me with a copy in lieu of an honest review. I’d also like to congratulate the author Farzana Doctor for taking up this initiative and writing such a sensitive yet soulful book!

*I received an ARC ebook which I believe had some chapter’s missing which talked about the story of Abdoolally – Sharifa’s great great-grandfather or maybe they were intentionally removed from the ARC, hence this review is solely based on Sharifa’s narrative.

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