I’m very excited that my story “Open Every Womb” has finally found a home; it appears in this week’s story collection online from the Atticus Review.
I wrote this story in 2004, and it went out to 24 periodicals before Atticus picked it up. I’m a firm believer that every story has a home; finding that home is one of the toughest parts of the writing game. Until now, Among the Moabites has been the hardest to place, and it only had to go through nine submissions to land at Cherry Bleeds and, a year later, at Pseudopod.
In some ways “Open Every Womb” is similar to “Among the Moabites”, in that it’s a bit dark and disturbing (though I didn’t get comments to that effect when it was rejected, perhaps because “Moabites” is a bit more on the fantasy genre side and “Womb” is in the realistic literary fiction genre, and the norms for comments on rejection are different in those worlds). “Womb”‘s topic is “female circumcision” (an unfortunate euphemism for cliterodectomy, infibulation, and genital mutilation), which isn’t a happy subject.
Not, I think, that the story is a “downer.” It came out of a long and interesting conversation after a pub quiz at the long-gone old Molly Quinn’s (in the building now occupied by the Craftsman on East Lake) with two young doctor friends. Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the United States, and they had been confronted with infibulation in their practice. They even had reference cards describing the WHO’s categorizations of female genital mutilation. It was a weird contrast: Minnesota, an almost self-parodically liberal state (despite a couple of local loony bins currently running for spots on the GOP presidential ticket), isn’t the sort of place where doctors should have to worry about things like girls having their clitorises and labia minora removed.
Though genital mutilation is a big part of the story, it isn’t really the heart of the story. It’s a character-driven story, very much about the narrator’s relationship to her body, her work, her partner, and her past. Genital mutilation is the catalyst for her growing self-awareness, but it’s not what makes her tick.
Still, if you are driven to learn more about genital mutilation after reading this story, and possibly take some action, here are a few useful resources:
- World Health Organization Factsheet
- Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project
- Amnesty International – Violence Against Women
- UNICEF Resources on FGM
- Stop FGM Now
- Clitoraid.org (I think this is the organization the narrator dreams about)
And just in case this should happen to attract the anti-circumcision activists campaigning to stop the male version of genital mutilation, let me note a few of my thoughts on that side:
- While arguably barbaric, and certainly medically unnecessary in most cases, removing a boy’s foreskin doesn’t even begin to compare to what is done to girls.
- I’ve been working on a companion story for some time now, though I haven’t shopped it aroun yet; I suspect it will be out there just as long as, if not longer than, “Open Every Womb” as it searches for a home.