Elevate Difference

Born in the Big Rains: A Memoir of Somalia and Survival

Born in the Big Rains begins like a beautifully written work of fiction: “In the distance, a lion roared, deep and long, dismissing the night. The air smelled of smoke and freshly brewed tea, and on the horizon the day’s first light chalked the sky.”

But the writing’s rich details and driving action belie that this is no tall tale, but the true story of an adolescent girl, named Fadumo Abdi Hersi Farah Husen, who was born to a nomadic family in Somalia. Her memoir vividly follows an unlikely path, tracing her steps from a young girl living in the wild to learning the other-worldly, big-city life in Mogadishu with her extended family due to severe complications from undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM). When her condition from FGM worsens, Korn eventually leaves for Europe to receive medical help, and finally settles in Germany, where she married and was eventually able to have a child after reconstructive surgery.

FGM is the life-altering event that is the crux of Korn’s autobiography. It is a deep-rooted tradition among some African cultures that is seen as a rite of passage for females in order to purify and cleanse them so that they are fit for marriage. Yet the act is often performed in unsanitary conditions, and the young girls who endure this can suffer the rest of their lives from various health problems (in Korn’s case it was rheumatoid arthritis), and may even die as a result of the surgery.

Born in the Big Rains takes an unflinching look at FGM from recounting the extreme pain of the act itself to the fact that it is often an unquestioned custom based on faulty logic - but Korn does not stop there. She also casts a critical eye toward the racism that has snuck into the controversy of FGM from the attitudes of some outside spectators who condemn the custom, and Korn even exposes her own former shortcomings - as she once perpetuated the belief that only circumcised women were clean and worthy.

Korn now works for FORWARD-Germany, which is an organization dedicated to stopping FGM. Based on her autobiography, it seems as though Korn is the type of person who takes duty seriously and lives her life based on what she believes needs to be accomplished. She may not see her testament on FGM as brave and full of strength, but it is. Hopefully, it will further the cause for eliminating the practice.

Written by: Beverly Jenkins-Crockett, May 28th 2008