My first day in school

Fatuma Ibrahim Hussein

It was 1997 on a Monday morning when my father took me to a school. Actually I was not willing to go to school. Why? Because to me school was a place of punishment.

My father said to me “Fatuma, today I am going to take you to school!” I started crying “Father, no-o-o.” Father said “My daughter, you have to learn this is the way of becoming a woman.” I said to him “No Father going to school will not make woman but initiation will make a woman (circumcision).” And my father smiled at me and said to me “my daughter, I will show you other girls learning at school.” And he took me to the school. The first person I met was a “madam.” The madam was called “Fatma.” Even Fatma is going to school!

I stand behind my father to make sure that madam wouldn’t beat me. She took me to class one where I met some girls and boys who were singing:

“Take the book and the pen, start education,

Education will give you light.”

It was a Somali song and actually I joined in those who were singing and I started introducing myself to the boys and the girls who were ??? girls.

In the evening when I came back to the home, I came while singing:

“Take the pen and the book, start education,

Education will give you light.”

And my father laughed and laughed and said to me “My dear daughter you are now growing into a woman.”

I understand that “school is not a place of punishment.”

Happening Now

  • A fall harvest of book reviews coming in: of The Others by Sarah BLAU (translated from the Hebrew by Daniella Zamir); of LO Yi-Chin’s Farewell, translated from the Chinese by Jeremy TIANG; of Véronique TADJO’s In the Company of Men

  • A fascinating interview with IWP’s Senior Advisor, professor Peter Nazareth, retired from UI’s English Department in spring 2021, after nearly five decades of teaching.

  • Word reaches us that poet HU Xudong  胡续冬, who also taught comparative and world literatures at Peking University (Beida), specializing in Latin American literatures, passed away unexpectedly. RIP, Hu Xudong…

  • We note with sadness the passing of Hiroshi SAKAGAMI 坂上 弘, whose long novelistic career garnered him major literary and cultural honors. A former president of the Japan Writers’ Association, he was until his retirement also the director of Keio University Press.

  • The poetic documentary Songs Still Sung: Voices from the Tsunami Shores, written and co-produced by Takako ARAI and creatively subtitled into English by a class of UI students of Japanese, will be screened at the prestigious Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, on-line 10/7-14/2021.

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