“Nina Smart is a brave and strong woman who has written a thought provoking book that should be read by everyone!”
Jackie Collins – one of the world’s top-selling novelists
Dhwanika Tewari – teenager from Thane, India
“I started reading your book and COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! I was so enthralled that I didn’t even take a break to eat breakfast…
Your story and life experiences moved me so much – especially reading about your bravery, wisdom, and thirst for life/freedom. Thank you for sharing your story with me and the world. I’ll be honest that I did not know much about Sierra Leone or FGM prior to reading your story, and so I think that this was the perfect introduction to someone like me. Not only did you educate me about this practice, but you also made me motivated to spread the word that this is still taking place in the world today.”
Grigor Ketenchian – Professor of Japanese
“A classic example of the American Dream, Nina’s story weaves the bad with the good, dazzling contemporary issues of race, immigration and human rights with stark honesty. She shows us how tragic events can be overcome by sheer will. Her example urges all of us to stand against injustice.”
Linda Haines – Governor, Camino Real Region, Soroptimist International of the Americas
“A glimpse into the fascinating world of initiation into an African Secret Society, Wild Flower offers the unique perspective of an Afro-European girl whose destiny unfolded in incredible sets on the global stage.”
Irving Sarnoff – Co-Founder of Friends of the United Nations
“Wild Flower is an unbelievable story, a stupendous account of a wilder-than-fiction life. Nina Smart opens her heart and recounts her early adolescence with unabashed candor. From the moment she first encounters the Bondo tribe, I became terribly afraid for her safety, and had to read long into the night to find out what happened. I’m deeply inspired by her story of resilience, by the daring effort to share it with the world. Above all, I admire her capacity to love and forgive. This page-turner is a must read!”
Thea Mercouffer – Director, Producer
“Nina demonstrates kindness, love, compassion, and empathy towards the plight of women all over the world who have experienced or are at risk of being subjected to FGM. After escaping it herself, she has thrown the idea of complacency to the wind and stands tall with the strength and courage to speak out. In life, you are defined by your actions and Nina’s voice of reason is heroic.’
Jennifer Morgan– Soroptimist from Canada
“I think you are a terrific writer. And you have a lot of resilience, I must say, because just the beginning of it shows how you had to change countries and cultures so frequently that it must have been extremely challenging, especially having your life so split up and also controlled by patriarchy so strongly. Bravo on the wonderful book you have written. You are definitely talented , and I’m glad to read that you are writing poetry as well. I feel as if I have taken a short time-travel trip to Sierra Leone and Nigeria to get a taste of what it is like to be under such strict patriarchal dominance and control. The obedience of the women to the fathers is a lot like what I used to teach about in 17th cent. French plays when I taught French theatre. But adding the FGM to the patriarchal power over women’s freedom is the most cruelty one can inflict upon women –just because they are born female.!!!!!It is so tragic to contemplate all the crimes against women worldwide. In fact, in Feminist Studies we learned that the one thing women do have in common in all countries in the world is violence against them/us . !!. What a horrible awareness and a consciousness raising to learn about all of it. I admire your courage, and truly think you are an example of how one can fight this war against patriarchal control and violence towards women and still retain love as a guiding life principle as you have done. It is remarkable.”
Gloria Orenstein – Veteran Feminist of America
“This powerful and compelling story touched my heart and I am confident that it will touch many more.”
Nahid Rimi – Children’s Social Worker/Investigator, Los Angeles
“Dr. Smart has written her story so beautifully. She’s not only told her own story of overcoming immeasurable obstacles, but has given a voice to those who dare not speak. An ear to others who dared to speak, courage to others who dared also to flee and wings to those who longed to soar.”
Pastor Mary Williams-Jackson – Completely Anointed Christian Church, Los Angeles
“I really enjoyed reading Nina Smart’s intriguing book in which she “is a free and gentle flower growing wild” as a beautiful song says…What a fascinating life story! I was touched by the magic combination of grace, strength and wisdom with which she overcame all the challenges within her life. I was touched by her deep love for Romania and her grateful memories of her childhood spent in my beautiful country, that was the foundation of everything she built up later! I was touched by her perseverant and passionate efforts in struggling against the horror of female genital mutilation, that is a global issue, thus part of the UN agenda. I am grateful that she brings the world’s attention to this cultural practice that is both unethical and incredibly detrimental to its victims, besides obviously being in direct violation of basic human rights, and I hope that widespread awareness will bring about change in attitudes and progress in combating it!”
Simona Miculescu – Romanian Ambassador to the United Nations
“From the beginning to the end, I was overwhelmed by and lived every minute of your griping and extraordinary life and personal story.What won me over was your uninhibited free spirit to live life to its fullest regardless of the formidable challenges and fears that would normally intimidate ordinary beings! I was struck by the spontaneity of reactions,unabashed honesty,fierce and unstoppable fight for what you believe in and your immeasurable love for your first family and Romania!”
Dr. David S. Bassiouni Sr. UN Diplomat and Founder of The Bassiouni Group
“Nina’s story is powerful because she ran away from a horrifying tragedy which could have cost her her life. When I read the book I was amazed at how a girl who was born in Europe and was not brought up in Africa managed to escape. I believe that her terrifying experience with the narrow escape, and the big fear that she had known when deciding to leave has enabled her to understand the situation of these girls facing FGM in my country. Knowing the fear of this harmful practice, I think that Dr. Nina is the best person to work on ending FGM. She not only escaped this horrible practice which many of us had to endure, but she educated herself and became a strong advocate in America and especially talking with policy makers and parliamentarians and politicians in Sierra Leone, urging them to pass a law to stop the practice. Dr. Nina has been supporting my work to end FGM.”
Ann-Marie Caulker – anti-FGM activist in Sierra Leone, director of NaMEP and founder of Katanya Women’s Development Association
“Nina is a passionate advocate against FGM and she covers this delicate topic in a compelling and approachable way that few could do. By weaving in her unique and personal story, the reader is quickly captivated, and you finish the book feeling like you have just taken a fascinating journey that leaves you not only wiser, but motivated to do more good in the world.”
Scott Fifer – Founder of GO Campaign
“This is a compelling and amazing story of a young girl Geanina, who at age 11 is brought to Africa by her Sierra Leonean biological father under false pretenses. It is fascinating how at that tender age she copes with this transition to a totally different and foreign culture. When she comes of age and will have to undergo one of the most invasive female initiation practices, during the secretive Bondo society gatherings, she decides through pure determination and with the help of some friends to escape this ordeal. The author describes with honesty and clarity her experience of this total turn-around in her life, her huge disappointments, her ambivalent feelings towards her African family, her falling in love, and the horrors of FGM. It is telling and commendable that she is now an ardent advocate for the elimination of the practice of FGM, and is spending her life to fundraise for and support this cause.”
Annerieke Owen-Huisman – humanitarian
“Wild Flower was a surprise. As an acquaintance of the author, I was curious to know more about her life and passions but I did not expect to be gripped so thoroughly by her story. Nina’s writing style and tone convey a sense of casual warmth and familiarity, making her experiences all the more impactful to the reader as they seem to be conveyed by the voice of a friend. Her story is one of perseverance; It is a window into the life of a young woman’s efforts to pursue her dreams and it is a tale of real-life adventure and hardship as she seeks the freedom with which to do so. Perhaps most importantly, however, Wild Flower is also informative. As an individual who knew very little about the horrors of FGM, I finished her book with a better understanding of what so many women are forced to endure. Nina’s perspective of her own overwhelming desire to escape that reality did a fantastic job of communicating the emotional ramifications of FGM. Wild Flower impacted me in a way that I did not expect and I found myself thinking about it for days after I had finished reading it.”
Ryan Jolivette – Student
“At the crossroads of childhood and adolescence, 13 years old Geanina leaves her native Romania – a country in East Europe and at the time under the brutal dictatorship of Ceausescu, to live with her biological father and his family in Sierra Leone – a country in West Africa where her father is a prominent person. The coming of age is entwined with the clashes of cultures, customs, languages along with one’s own fears and doubts, bursts and anger. In Sierra Leone, as in other parts of Africa and the world, ‘female genital mutilation’ (FGM) also known as ‘female genital cutting’ is being practiced. It is a horrendous and dangerous procedure, yet a custom held in feared respect and viewed as a symbol of cultural identity. FGM is the prerequisite rite of passage for membership into the women-only Bondo secret society, an influential power elite in Sierra Leonean society. The position of her father, the affiliation of stepmother and grandmother with the society, make Geanina a desired, if not a destined candidate for the initiation, even though she only partially belongs to the culture. The book, which is about Geanina’s escape, revolves around those critical times when the decision to leave is molded and their unfolding towards the eventual successful, albeit filled with dramatic tension, escape. And if the book unwinds with remarkable pace, the rhythm with which events develop in that distant but now familiar land rendering its reading in one breath, something else is the crux of the story. The book is not a work of fiction but the real life experience of Geanina Smart, now Dr. Smart and the founder of Servicing Wild Flowers International (SWF), the organization dedicated to help women in Sierra Leone and fight to eradicate the practice. “Wild Flower” is the story of a wild destiny whose reason of being is not only because something has to be done to stop this atrocious practice and very importantly, change the mindset of those that believe in its attributes, but that someone has to have all the reasons as well as the necessary courage to fuel the movement with the passion it requires. At the crossroads of cultures, Geanina is that person.”
Victoria Petri – Ph.D. researcher
“Told through the eyes of her adolescent self, Dr. Nina Smart has written a compelling, hard-to-put-down, spiritually inspiring, delightfully written, triumphant coming of age story. She is faced with the choice to listen to her heart and Spirit, or to follow the customs of her family and her society’s tradition, by undergoing Female Genital Mutilation. This is an important book, because it will help break the silence around the taboo subject of FGM in Sierra Leone; giving voice to the hearts of millions who have been silenced by their tradition and their families. Dr. Smart’s courage and sense of Spirit will most certainly inspire and move you.”
Brooke Megdal – Founder of the Loving Heart Center
“The author’s ability to thoroughly document her experience from her beginnings in communist Romania through her time in Nigeria and Sierra Leone to her journey to the US does not come as a surprise to my family and I as we have always known her to be precise, focused and goal-oriented.
Her book demonstrates vividly some of the unpleasant aspects of African culture as perpetuated by those who should normally be at the forefront of the eradication of such archaic practices, given that they may themselves have been victims.
The enlightenment of the populace especially women must be a priority in Africa if female genital mutilation (FGM) is to be totally eradicated.
Viewed from this perspective, it is clear that the author has placed herself at the center of the efforts to eradicate FGM wherever it may be found. This book is therefore a step in the right direction”
Dunni Bakare – Nigeria
“Nina’s tells a powerful story for all to hear. This masterfully written book about her teenage years, quietly reveals the horrid truth of what happens to millions of innocent girls who are succumbed to FGM under the pressure of cultural expectations and initiation into an enforced secret society. Her youth and love she feels are intertwined in every word of the book. You are with her as each page is turned.
This book can change the course of history to stop this insanity but only if we together can get it into every teenagers hand, every woman who stands against violence towards women and every society that needs to know the truth will this happen. A must read – I loved it and I love her courage and dedication. A role model indeed! Buy it now!”
Annie de la Bouillerie Goeke (Baronesss) Co-Founder/Director Earth Rights Institute,Vice Presidential Candidate, Green Party USA 1996, Co-Founder Women in Black, USA)
“Wild Flower is a deeply personal and compelling story, but possesses a universality that transcends the particular and encourages the reader to use what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “The Sociological Imagination”. Geanina’s story is unique and fraught with seemingly impossible circumstances of chance, yet is both terrifying and illuminating in its revelations, which are not unique to Geanina but indeed are shared with millions of other women around the globe. Nina is an excellent storyteller—humble and with an honesty and simplicity that makes Wild Flowers difficult to put down.”
Nathanael Matthiesen – sociologist, activist, and organic farmer
“It was fabulous. I could not put it down until I read every page. I did sleep but very inspired. What a story of conviction and strength. You are amazing. Get ready for work…”
Eileen de Lespinasse – Clinical Psychologist Las Vegas
“I was delighted and amazed to read your book. It is the shocking story of a brave young girl who escapes from a traditional ritual of female genital mutilation in modern-day Sierra Leone. Nina’s joy and love of life overflow on every page.”
Professor Ann Hironaka – University of California Irvine
“A page-turner. Smart carried me from America to West Africa to Romania and back with the breathtaking power of her story”
Dominic James – Musician
“Nina is a poet because her life is full of surprises and she narrates them in an amazing way.”
Judy Lu – Business Woman and Sociologist, Japan
“A true fairy tale-like story with good and bad witches, Dr. Smart’s autobiographic book is an almost journalistic account of incredibly barbarian, centuries-old customs preserved and still practiced in the underworld of some African countries, and the journey through three continents of the teenage girl to escape mutilation. An eye opener while a fine literary achievement. A must read!”
Georgeta Bostean – Musician, Artist, Business Woman
“Wild Flower is the saga of a brave little girl born in Romania from an influential father from Sierra Leone and loving mother from Romania. In as much as this unrealized union created diverse multi-cultural environment for the girl, it threw her into a world of transformation, cultural conflict, power rivalry and a direct confrontation with the most deadly practices, including FGM, from which she heroically escaped with the help of a childhood friend who happened to be situated on the other side of the Atlantic. The amazing part of the story is not that she was able to escape from the scene of the potential crime, but how she prevailed over a powerful father bent on ensuring that she undergoes the procedure at any cost. The sea of events, in which she managed to swim freely, is equally amazing. Despite the constant clash she had with her loving father, who wanted to sacrifice her on the altar of culture, she showed genuine kindness to him during his rather difficult sunset years. Thus, this girl, who has grown up to be a successful human being and who has cultivated the friendship of people from all over the World, is a symbol of courage in the global fight against the most backward practice, which has claimed the life of many young girls in the continent of Africa. Knowing fully wel, how much she loves Sierra Leone, I take it that the emotional descriptions of certain events during her life in that country are reactions to the reality she had to confront and not vengeful attempts to smear the good name of that beautiful country in the western part of my beloved continent.
Gebremedhin Hagoss, – An international civil servant who lived in Sierra Leone for a little over a decade.
“Geanina is like a little prism that allows love to pass through her and cast its light on people and situations far and wide. Her energy and love for life is evident in her ability to rise above every difficulty she has encountered. She has not allowed the negatives to change her but allowed the pain to make her stronger. May her light shine longer and brighter. She’s a truly an amazing woman and I must say it is a privilege to have her as a friend.”
OctobeRaine – Poet, Nigeria
“Dr Nina Smart captures our heart and soul in her true life story, from growing up as a” perfect” young Romanian girl, to coming-of-age as an African, Sierra Leonean, young woman. Her candid voice of love, betrayal, terror and new territories span 3 continents, 2 completely foreign-and brings us to her current humanitarian passion. She speaks of a life beyond belief for most us!”
Linda Everitt – The Dark Okainwan Princess
“Wild Flower is the riveting story of a young woman’s courage and determination in the face of adverse circumstances as she is forcibly taken to Africa. Geanina captivates her readers with not only her eloquence, but fiery spirit throughout her journey. Through her story, Geanina unveils many of the horrors and injustices women face in Africa, including but not limited to FGM, both informing and motivating her readers to cultivate a change in these practices. She enthralls her readers through her intricate storytelling and leaves them eager to discover more of her story. I was captured and engaged in Geanina’s narrative constantly longing to know more.”
Andreea Dutu – The University of Chicago ’16, Political Science
“As a young girl pulled between cultural, political and family conflict, Nina Smart’s journey of self-discovery, identity exploration and preservation of spirit, shows the true strength and bravery of a woman. Her story of unearthed idealism against the harsh reality of society and the times for women in Sierra Leone, offers us a rare perspective into the oppression that continues to exist today.”
Nisha Patel – Global Sourcing Director
“Such an amazing and inspiring book! Couldn’t put it down!”
Mariana Fiel – Photographer from Portugal
“Wild Flower is a book that I was priviledged to read electronically about a couple of years before it was published.From the first time I started reading I did not want to put the book down for a second. I was interested in every bit of it, I had to keep bearing in mind that it is a true story. It depicts bravery,determination,focus. The author is a rare jewel. I see it as a best seller and recommend it to anyone who has or is yet to discover their purpose.”
Funmi Adewuyi Afolayan – Queen’s College Alumna
“I was impressed. I was pleasantly surprised by the honesty, sensitivity, courage to tell some tough events for you and that you do not forget where you came from and your loved ones, friends, family and acquaintances. I think the whole story should be an example for all young women in distress to follow your example in order to overcome their problems with dignity and courage”
Andreia Dobrescu – Attorney at Law and Lecturer in Bucharest, Romania
“Intriguing, suspenseful! What an amazing read! Truly inspirational. Wow! I could not stop reading! A great combination of danger, fear, determination and romance. Loved it!”
Bunmi Adun – Educator and Queen’s College Alumna
“Wild Flower is a book that is about a 13-year-old girl from Sierra Leone named Geanina. This book took me on a journey through her thoughts, emotions, and fears. I was truly amazed at the strength that Nina possessed at such a young age. I had to read the book twice to get a complete understanding of its contents. I think the reason why I had to read it twice is that I did not believe that this book could be a true story. I really could not believe that a parent could support something so inhumane. I am an 11-year-old African American Girl on the other side of the world and I could feel every girl’s pain deep in my heart.
We are taught to respect and obey our parents, but I am very happy that Nina was able to stay strong and do what was best for herself. The strength that she has shown has made me appreciate the little things.
FGM (female genital mutilation) is a tradition that is carried out in Africa. Nina, with help from friends, was able to come up with a plan called ‘Operation Daylight’ that would help her Escape being a victim of female genital mutilation.
After reading Wildflower I have researched female genital mutilation and have shared this information with my classmates. Some may say that I am too young to make a difference but my passion is to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate on behalf of themselves. I will continue to educate myself on these issues as well as spread awareness within my community.
I would like to say thank you to Miss Nina for allowing my mother and I to read her story. Not only has it strengthen our relationship it has opened our eyes to what is not seen or said. For that, we are truly grateful.”
Cheyenne Smith 11 years old student