Sharifa and her husband Murtuza are spending his sabbatical year in Mumbai with their seven-year-old daughter, Zeenat. While Murtuza teaches, Shari is planning to homeschool Zee, reconnect with her family, and research her great-great grandfather with hopes of creating a family history. But Sharifa’s cousins, with whom she was once close, are at odds. Fatema is involved in a campaign to ban the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) while Zainab sees it as a time-honored tradition that must be respected. Sharifa thinks it’s a cruel and harmful injustice, but isn’t at all sure it is still practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect they all belong to – and if it is, she wonders who is insisting on such an outdated practice?
Today I talked to writer, activist, and psychotherapist Farzana Doctor, author of Seven (Dundurn Press, 2020). She was born in Zambia to Indian parents, lived there for five years and then in 1971, immigrated with her family to Canada. As a teenager, Doctor became interested in community organizing around issues of gender violence, gender rights, and environmental protection. She currently volunteers with WeSpeakOut, a global group that is working to ban female genital cutting in her Dawoodi Bohra community. Her first novel was Stealing Nasreen 2007, and her second, Six Metres of Pavement 2012, won a Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the 2012 Toronto Book Award. Her third novel, All Inclusive, was a Kobo 2015 and National Post Best Book of the Year. Named one of CBC Books’ “100 Writers in Canada You Need To Know Now,” she has also recently published a poetry collection. In her spare time, Farzana Doctor poses Maggie, her dog, with books she loves under the hashtag #MaggieWithBooks. And in previous times, she loved going to restaurants and traveling.