Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa, Somalia, in 1981 and was educated in the United Kingdom, studying history and politics at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. She lives in London and is currently working on her second novel. Kevin Kenerly earned a BA at Olivet College. A longtime member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he has acted in fifteen seasons, playing dozens of roles. His audiobook credits include Eddie Signwriter and Stephen King's The Running Man.
Mohamed's beautifully rendered debut, inspired by her father's life, opens in 1935 Aden, Yemen, where 11-year-old Jama and his mother subsist in precarious destitution: Jama spending his days on the streets with other "market boys" while his mother works long hours for little pay at a coffee factory. When his mother dies, Jama briefly returns to his family's home in Hargeisa before running away to search for his long-absent father, who he believes is in Sudan. His quest leads Jama into Italian-controlled Eritrea, where he joins Mussolini's Fascists in exchange for food and shelter, and Mohamed delivers graphic descriptions of the horrifically savage treatment the African askaris received at the hands of the Italians. After the Italians are deposed, Jama settles for a few years into village life, before his wanderings take him to Egypt. Jama is a charming protagonist whose peregrinations-assisted by clansmen, kind strangers, and ghostly visitations-are directed more by historical and biographical significance than by the demands of plot. Mohamed vividly recreates the complex atmosphere of the era, and her personal investment in the story gives it a passionate edge. (Aug.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Spanning the years 1935-47, this novel opens in Aden, Yemen, where 11-year-old Jama, a wild but smart Somali boy, lives with his mother. They live a hardscrabble existence with unfriendly relatives, having left more sympathetic clan members behind in Hargeisa. After a tragic loss, Jama begins his journey across Africa on a quest to find his father, who left the family years earlier to attempt to earn money. Jama travels mostly by foot, walking over 1000 miles, and we follow him through cities, the desert, and mountains of Africa and across oceans, to Germany and England. This is not a carefree travel adventure; Jama endures extreme hardships, making and losing friends and encountering great brutality and sadness along with incredible generosity and kindness from both strangers and his clan. Verdict A pleasure to read, with descriptive language that allows readers to envision themselves in the story, this novel shows a distinctly non-European way of life in mid-20th-century Africa that is captivating. Highly recommended.-Sarah Conrad Weisman, Corning Community Coll., NY Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.