Tuesday, June 14, 2005

No sign of the sun yet today. With this cloud cover you can see the outline of St. Croix clearly in the distance beyond Buck Island, which is just outside the bay. Hopefully we won't get more rain. We are mopping up water in one corner of the living room because one of the cisterns is right behind our kitchen and when it is too full it leaks. Guess we need to take more showers and wash more clothes! Not a typical situation in the islands - usually is it worries about using too much water. I'll have to run home at lunch today to mop again as my bookcases are in that corner.

I read Pat Lowery Collins' The Fattening Hut last night. It is a quick read due to the large amount of white space on the pages and the free verse style, bit it is not a story you will forget. Helen is the middle daughter and it is time for her to join her older sister, who is nursing her first child, in the fattening hut. Her sister's stomach now rests of her thighs when she sits cross legged - she is voluptuously beautiful. Helen, on the other hand, is scrawny from chasing around the island with her best friend Ashani. Her time of being a little girl is over - she has been promised to a much older man in their tropical village and she is to be fattened up and "prepared" for marriage. Scared of what will come Helen is not able to keep down the food that is brought to her in huge amounts. Helen's fear escalates when she realizes what will be done to her after reading a passage her Aunt Margaret has written and insists her older sister tell her about how she will be cut and then sewn closed. Helen escapes the fattening hut and runs away, suffering hunger and thirst as she searches for the plane Ashani has once shown her. Helen is not found by the search parties from her village but the Fattening Hut awaits the other young women of Helen's village as it does for many in Nigeria and other countries in the world. Although the setting of this story is fictitious, the practice of female circumcision is not. The details of the brutal "surgery" are not detailed, but it is clear what happens to the girls. Collins has written a sparse but beautiful novel that needs to be in YA collections. The appealing cover illustration will catch the teen's attention and Collins' writing will hold them to the last page.

Off to another day of weeding and sweating.