Friday, May 2, 2008

Somali training!

After my publishers (Frances Lincoln) read the first draft of 'From Somalia, with love', they called me in for a meeting to discuss it. It was then that it emerged that one of the editors actually thought I was half Somali. Why? I guess because Somali culture permeates the book, it was inspired by it and seeks to introduce it to a wider audience, one that may have never known the delights of the dirac, danced the buraambur or tasted baasto iyo hilib!
And that ignorance about Somali culture is found everywhere, amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Perhaps because they haven't been in the West for as long as South East Asians, or because they don't have a Bollywood of their own, Somalis are nowhere near as mainstream as Asians or other Africans as far as ethnic minorities go.

So, the question remains: how did Somali culture end up being the inspiration and focal point for a book by an ajnabi?

Working in East London first introduced me to Somalis (this is a story I tell in my book 'From My Sisters' Lips') but living in South London brought me into closer contact with them. I fell in love with the Somali women I knew: their strength of character, their beauty, their love for the Qur'an, their seeming fearlessness: so many of them reminded my of my mother.

But these were women who were my age and older. In order to write FSWL and make it believable, I needed an authentic voice: the voice of a fairly typical Somali teenager. And I knew just where to find that: the Somali forums online.

And that, as I will recount in a future post, was like walking into a whole new world... Nothing could have prepared me for that!


TheAdvocates said...
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TheAdvocates said...

Hello dear,

I am truly glad that you've found the Somali communtiy an interesting subject, upon which to base your book. If I may say, Somali community, it's culture and the tales of its members, is a wide area of interest one can resourcefully write on.

PS: I intend to read your book, as soon as I can lay my hands on it. Your book seems like the kind of work of which the community is much need, for all intents and purposes.


Sine said...

I read your book a couple of months ago..I have to say I was surprised when I found out you weren't was a quick book but interesting nevertheless...