It’s not many times I get judged for reading a book. Heck, I don’t think I’ve ever been judged for reading a book, at least no judgement that I know of. However, a book must be onto something if you’re going to get side eyes just from holding it.
One of my many plans for this year was to be, read and Travel Africa. Kenya and beyond. You can imagine my joy when I heard “There’s this interesting book by a Somali Kenyan writer…it’s actually a sequel.” They had me at “Somali Kenyan ” , what better way to start my “read” Africa than with a hommie from the hood? I knew nothing of what this book was about but I was really excited to get started on it.
However, I had to tell one of my bestfriend first, she needed to get the book, she was Somali too, I was sure she would be excited! The response I got back was not what I expected though, she told me that she didn’t particularly like the writer because the writer lied a lot, a sentiment that seems to be shared by many. I wondered about what, but I decided not keep poking, I could tell from the tone of voice that this wasn’t a comfortable topic, so I moved on. I did tell her though that I would read the book and tell her what I thought.
The book is a life story about the writer who was born in Mogadishu and then brought up in several countries, including Kenya, then went ahead to make a career out of politics in Holland and now lives on the run in an effort to stay alive. The book depicts the mind battles she fought, mainly due to aspects of her culture and religion that always seemed to leave her feeling a sort of emptiness because none seemed to answer the endless “Why’s” that constantly spewed in her mind.
Despite the great controversy that this book is, I have to give credit where it’s due. Ayaan is an amazing writer (my opinion is based off this one book by the way, so I could be wrong, do correct me if I am ). I am not sure if I think this because of her style of writing, that I feel is very much like my own (raw and unedited, following no real norm to writing, an emotive type of writing, one that vividly tells a story and draws you in even when there is a lack of all those “Fancy” phrases and words we were very much encouraged to use when writing compositions in primary school ) OR because she was able to get me to read the whole book to the very end including the acknowledgements.
I never read the acknowledgements at the end of a book but something about this book had me craving for the next sea of words splattered across the next page and the next and the next, until there was no more.
I loved the fact that this book served as a plate of knowledge about the war in Somalia under Siad Barre’s rule that I had only minimally read about in one of my International relations classes. I was able to get the back story about the war in captivating detail that did not cause me to dose off because I was preparing for an exam.
I loved the fact that I was able to read about what Nairobi was like when I was younger and all I cared about was suckling and having my diaper changed at the right time. I loved that it spills over a time span that I can relate to and it many times left me thinking “What was I doing on May 15th 2006? ” (I mean, it was mum’s birthday but what were we doing? What were we doing when Ayaan’s Dutch citizenship was being nullified, an act that started the downward spiral and eventual collapse of a Government?) I loved the fact that I could relate when she talked about aspects of Nairobi that had me like “That’s so true” and she totally killed it when she talked about Professor Griffins of Starehe Boys.Everyone knew professor Griffins. I mean guys, what more do you want after that?
She not only buys me with the whole Nairobi narration but she goes to serve me more life when she talks about Holland and its structure and Government. I stayed in holland for a day thanks to my swedish residents permit (Holla 🙂 ) so when this part in the book rolled up, I was excited. I wanted to know more about the place whose air I breathed for 24hours , whose city left me mouth agape. (And it was a small section that I saw, so you can imagine) Again my brain was hooked up with knowledge about the country and how it worked. She woke my brain to Immigration and the reality of it. Her story gave me a whole new sense to the gender issue that has been going on for decades. I was woke to so many issues that I never really delved into because, well, you know, this Nairobi fast life, constantly grinding and trying to keep up with matters of our Air Space being considered a conflict zone and what not. (But really America, why do you want to do us like this? ) . I was woke to issues so very real that need more than just an “Oh that’s sad.”
Travelling changes and improves your perspective on things and in the very same way, so does reading. Ayaan was able to spark an array of questions in my mind that challenged my way of thinking and a book that is able to do this has hit the right spot.
This book for me was a bag of knowledge and then some more delivered in the most captivating and enlightening form I have had in a while.
The book is filled with great controversy about her culture and religion hence the side eye I was getting, but my reading of this book was in no way spelling out support for the writer’s beliefs and motions.
I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions and decisions and if those are the life choices that she has made those are on her. I particularly don’t understand why one would commit their lives to hating this one person that has no idea who they are, just because she denounced her faith and had nasty things to say about it. The fact that she has to move from safe house to safe house because people are out to get her is beyond me. It is the 21st Century after all, no? But maybe this whole issue is deeper than I seem to see it and I don’t even want to get into it because it isn’t my place but I did love the book.
I loved that it was enlightening and a narration of real events. I loved that it was raw and descriptive that it almost has you smelling the Ugali and Sukuma wiki she talks about and just so we are clear ,not the one cooking in your Kitchen. I loved that it was captivatingly written that it had me yearning for the next page.
There is nothing worse than reading a book that doesn’t capture you and you need great will power to finish it and finish it you must because you spent money on it and well you need to know what happens in the end anyway *eyeroll* .
I have no particular opinion about the cultural and religious aspects of this book ( which literally make the whole book btw) but I have to say that I like the fact that she tries to stand up for women, her methods may be seen to be different (trying to stay PC here) but it’s the thought that counts, no? ALSO because I heard that Ayaan lies…I need to know what about. My lack of knowledge in the religion or culture does not allow me to be able to pick out the lies easily so if you can, please share with your girl. This is one of those books that you need to have your facts right about and quite frankly all the facts I have as of now are what Ayaan has given.
This is not your standard review but I guess it will have to do, even with the constant use of the words enlightening and captivating, lol. If you’ve read the book, please tell me what you think about it below. And if we can keep it strictly about the writing skills, that would be great. I don’t want to have to go into hiding. Unless of course, you’re explaining to me about the parts that she lied, which would be diverting from her writing style, but I feel like I should at least know that, no?
If you have not read the book and all you know is what you have heard others say, I suggest you take a read, if not for anything but to have the ability to form your own opinion and not rely on that of others who probably have NOT read the book.
sidenote :I usually read purely for enjoyment but EISH, this book went a step further. Also, I don’t usually say : ” …, no?” a lot, it’s just today. I’m excused, no? Lol. OK BYE.
Love and Love