In Stones: A Novel (She Writes Press / UnCUT/VOICES | July 18th, 2017 | $16.95), by award-winning author Jeanie Kortum, protagonist Emely returns home to her tribe in Africa after earning a master’s degree in anthropology in the US, and finds herself drawn into a high stakes struggle between the linear, academic world she’s adopted and the intuitive, magical expansiveness that is her heritage. A master’s degree student in narrative anthropology, Emely has examined her own roots—but only through an academic lens. All this changes however, when she reconnects with her family’s tribe and its mystical prophecies.

Sent on an assignment to embed herself with the last living members of this ancient tribe living the old way deep in the forest, Emely attempts to keep an academic distance even as the people she’s there to observe insist that she is the one they’ve been waiting for, and that it is her destiny to find a stone tablet made thousands of years before Christ and lead the tribe into the future. But resisting her call for change are the women in her village—who worship a secret goddess who advocates female genital mutilation as a symbol of true purity—as well as a police chief with an agenda all his own.  Eventually Emely is swept into the ultimate battle of opposing minds, souls, and bodies—one that could determine the future not just of her tribe, but women everywhere.

I first knew the cutting was close when the sun rose and the young girl who had been dancing all night, bleating through a whistle, was dragged across the clearing by an old woman and lowered to the ground. All around her, women fell to the ground, emitting strange cries. The old woman held a piece of glass in her hand. The men sitting around the fire drinking from large calabasas, turned away.

The whistle in the young girl’s mouth was replaced with a stick so that she would not cry out and curse the ceremony. When the cutting happened it was quick, grubby and gynecologically matter of fact. The old woman turned and dropped the clitoris onto a leaf. The stick had worked. Though the little girl’s legs were shaking and her eyes leaked tears, she hadn’t cried out. When I went to visit her a little later someone had piled a small hill of maize on her wound. Transfixed, I watched as small tributaries of blood leaked into the white flour. 

That morning, as if I too had a stick in my mouth, I withdrew into the comfortable objectivity of North American scrutiny: I too did not cry out. For thirty years I have carried the shame of that moment, my protest, whatever I could have done to stop the proceedings, sealed forever in the resin of my silence. But finally, this book. Stones is being co-published by She Writes Press and UnCUT/VOICES.
— Jeanie Kortum

Every 10 seconds a girl is cut – 6,000 every day.

FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is “The most sexist crime on the planet,” French lawyer Linda Weil-Curiel states. “The clitoris is the only organ dedicated to sexual pleasure and only a woman has it. Grown just for her pleasure, it’s cut from her body.”

When Jeanie Kortum witnessed a clitoridectomy in Kenya, she was spurred into action to create a story with enough emotional depth and suspense, people would at once be entertained but also more fully understand the intricate societal and interfamily politics behind this ancient ritual. FGM is a worldwide practice that has affected 200 million. Since 1990, the estimated number of girls and women in the US who have undergone the practice has more than tripled.

 As Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen says in her foreword:

Jeanie Kortum has taken years to produce a lyrical mystery in the genre of magical realism that spans millennia well beyond recorded chronicles. Like Alice Walker, Kortum places female genital mutilation (FGM, affecting 130 million women) at the heart of the story, exploring most intently the toxicity of the secret, the omertà surrounding “ritual” torture to which (mainly) women subject little girls. Silence is a weapon that fractures mother-daughter bonds and in a sense excises worlds, obstructing the intimate union of mother and child at the origin of human life. Intertwining the sacred and profane, Stones journeys back to the beginning to recover the healing knowledge that all things are one.
— Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen—Associate, Harvard University, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Oxford, CEO, UnCUT/VOICES