Kassindja, Fauziya 1977-
KASSINDJA, Fauziya 1977-
Born 1977, in Kpalimé, Togo; immigrated to United States, 1995; granted asylum in 1996; daughter of a businessman; married (separated). Education: Fordham University, B.S. (with honors), 1992, M.B.A., 1996.
Home—Alexandria, VA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Delacorte Press, 299 Park Ave., New York, NY 10171-0002.
Author and activist.
(With Layli Miller Bashir) Do They Hear You When You Cry?, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1998.
In December, 1994, seventeen-year-old Fauziya Kassindja fled to the United States from her native Togo to escape the brutal rite of female circumcision. In response, U.S. immigration officials strip-searched her, put her in chains, and kept her in prison for sixteen months while it considered the merits of her request for political asylum. It was a harsh and degrading introduction to her new country, but in the end, due to the efforts of an American University law student and the interest of the New York Times, which put her story on the front page, Kassindja was granted asylum, the first person to earn this right based on the fear of female genital mutilation. In Do They Hear You When You Cry? Kassindja and her coauthor, Layli Miller Bashir, tell the story of Kassindja's life in Togo, the death of her father, whose relatives drove away her mother and forced her into a polygamous marriage, and her dramatic escape days before she was scheduled to undergo her "cleansing," the name given for the brutal procedure of removing a woman's genitalia. Unfortunately, her struggles didn't end there, as she was subjected to a lengthy stay in immigration prison, where abusive guards and callous immigration agents nearly broke her spirit. In the end, Kassindja triumphed over the odds and earned the asylum that would allow her to live free and whole, but as Newsweek reviewer Laura Shapiro concluded, "Moving and powerful though this story is, it exposes such unremittingly grim truths that it's impossible to close the book and feel at peace." Writing in Booklist, Grace Fill called the memoir "shocking, heartbreaking, and inspiring." And People reviewer Deborah J. Waldman concluded, "It's hard not to be charmed by Kassindja and moved by her story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kassindja, Fauziya, and Layli Miller Bashir, Do They Hear You When You Cry?, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Booklist, March 1, 1998, Grace Fill, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?, p. 1074.
Kliatt, July, 2003, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?, p. 3.
New Straits Times, June 13, 2001, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?
Newsweek, March 16, 1998, Laura Shapiro, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?, p. 57.
People, April 13, 1998, Deborah J. Waldman, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?, p. 31.
Precinct Reporter (San Bernardino, CA), April 22, 1999, Eliz Dowdy, "When Tradition and Human Rights Clash," section A, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, January 26, 1998, Eliz Dowdy, review of Do They Hear You When You Cry?, p. 76.
Public Broadcasting System Web site,http://www.pbs.org/speaktruthtopower/ (August 27, 2004), profile of Fauziya Kassindja.
Tahirih Justice Center,http://www.tahirih.org/ (August 27, 2004), "Fauziya Kassindja's Story.*"