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Desert Flower

Desert Flower

Book rating: 03 Paperback Virago Press

By (author) Waris Dirie

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  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 124mm x 194mm x 18mm | 180g
  • Publication date: 1 December 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1860497586
  • ISBN 13: 9781860497582
  • Illustrations note: Section: 8, B&W
  • Sales rank: 7,603

Product description

Waris Dirie (the name means desert flower) lives a double life - by day she is a famous model and UN spokeswoman on women's rights in Africa, at night she dreams of her native Somalia. Waris, one of 12 children, was born into a traditional family of desert nomads in East Africa. She remembers her early childhood as carefree- racing camels and moving on with her family to the next grazing spot - until it came her turn to meet the old woman who administered the ancient custom imposed on most Somalian girls: circumcision. Waris suffered this torture when she was just five years old. Then, aged 12, when her father attempted to arrange a marriage with a 60 year old stranger in exchange for five camels - she took flight. After an extraordinary escape through the dangerous desert she made her way to London and worked as a maid for the Somalian ambassador until that family returned home. Penniless and speaking little English, she became a janitor in McDonalds where she was famously discovered by a fashion photographer. Her story is a truly inspirational and extraordinary self-portrait of a remarkable woman whose spirit is as breathtaking as her beauty.

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Author information

Waris Dirie is an internationally renowned model and face of Revlon skincare products. She was appointed by the United Nations in 1997 as a special ambassador for women's rights to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation. She lives in New York with her boyfriend and their son.

Customer reviews

By Khrystyne Cordi 23 Feb 2012 3

I really wanted to like this book. The subject matter is a serious one and the stories told are both shocking and heartbreaking. However the letdown for me was the bad editing (or lack thereof). I felt like Waris didn't have an editor to point her in the write direction languistically so it felt a bit lacking. Unfortunate because the message it gave is really a beautiful one.

This might be a better book for teenagers to read than adults.

Review quote

Waris's story is one of remarkable courage. From the deserts of Somalia to the world of high fashion ... she emerges a real champion. She is the most beautiful inspiration to anyone ELTON JOHN A story that traverses continents, spans worlds of human experience and human pain ... Waris Dirie was a victim once, but she never will be again EXPRESS She was circumcised at five, fled an arranged marriage at 12, then became a Pirelli girl in her teens. Now, at twenty-eight, Waris Dirie is an ambassador for the UN. Her mission? To rid Africa of its most barbaric ritual OBSERVER Dirie's story is an extraordinary one. SUNDAY TIMES

Editorial reviews

Waris Dirie ran away from home in Somalia when she was only 13. She took no food or drink and had only the clothes she was wearing but she cared about none of these things. Her only concern was to get away from her father, who wanted her to marry a man many years her senior. Waris was a courageous, resourceful girl, whose first dangerous encounter would have sent a less determined child back home. Approached by a lion as she was sleeping under a tree in the desert, she was too weak from lack of food to run away. She thought her time had come and prayed that death would be quick. But the lion must have decided she was too puny to be of interest, for it wandered away. This was only the start of her adventure. After a plane journey to London - giving her her first experience of flying and, indeed, her first sight of a white person -Waris found herself a room in the YMCA and a job in a fast-food restaurant. This was a remarkable achievement for a young woman with no education and no English, from an utterly alien country. She was spotted by a fashion photographer and became a model - a contemporary of the as yet unknown Naomi Campbell. Later she achieved her ambition, to campaign on behalf of the UN against the one aspect of Somali culture she despised - female circumcision, a custom still practised in much of Africa and elsewhere. She herself had been circumcised when she was five. Waris's book has been translated into 14 languages and inspired Elton John to buy the film rights. The tale of a truly exceptional woman who overcame incredible odds, it is a story everyone should read. (Kirkus UK)