Farzana Doctor’s latest release Seven examines a topic that is not something that is often examined in literature at least in my experience. This novel, while examining something that may be difficult for some readers to digest, is something important. I would be discussing the topic in more detail farther in, but this book is something I highly recommend.
The novel focuses on Sharifa who is traveling with her husband to India for a marriage saving trip. She thinks that she will be able to spend time researching her great-great-grandfather, but what she winds up learning about are his four wives, who are not mentioned in family stories. The male relative though was a noted wealthy business leader and a philanthropist, so Sharifa is a bit surprised by the mysterious revelation of his wives. As she continues digging deeper into the wives she is also dealing with unrest within her very conservative community. There are feminists speaking out against an act known as khatna, an age-old ritual that involves the cutting of a woman’s genitalia. The growing movement leads Sharifa to learn that her two favorite cousins hold very different views. She is trying to find a middle ground, but she learns an unexpected truth and finds herself forced to take a position.
Doctor’s novel examines the difficult history of khatna and the relationship between women and their identities in connection to religion and inherited social practices. While this read might seem like something that will be difficult for readers to connect with or be able to feel comfortable reading, Doctor has used her own knowledge and understanding to craft something that feels personable. You will find yourself drawn in and able to understand the varied view points that her main character is contending with. This is a remarkable work that will cause you to think and really push yourself to understand and examine. Doctor is also a founding member of WeSpeakOut.org, which is an organization focused on fighting for equal rights for women of Bohra in all spheres of life. They are pushing to end FGM and the practice of khatna. You can find out more about Seven on the author’s website.