Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wonderful Book, Unfortunate Title

North of Dawn: A NovelNuruddin Farah has spent a lifetime writing about the plight of the Somali Diaspora and the difficulty immigrants must overcome as they assimilate into new cultures and countries. I have had the privilege of reviewing several of his novels for "Library Journal" and have discovered that his work, especially this new book, "North of Dawn," is extremely accessible to readers who enjoy learning through fiction.
From the chilling moment when a suicide vest explodes in a crowded Somali marketplace, ripple effects are felt in Oslo where the bomber’s parents, Gacalo and Mugdi, have lived and thrived as secular Muslims for decades. Now Gacalo, fulfilling a promise to her dead son, Dhaqaneh, intends to sponsor his widow Waliya, and her children Naciim and Saafi, causing a rift in the family which is concerned by the burgeoning anti-immigrant sentiment in Norway. How will their friends respond to the news that their own son has embraced jihad?
Reclusive Waliya, fully cloaked in niqab and strongly influenced by a local Imam, is reluctant to allow her bright, inquisitive children to take advantage of the tremendous educational opportunities that Norway provides for new immigrants. The kids, naturally, are torn between loyalty to their mother and the exciting freedoms offered by their grandparents. Nacim especially, has developed a close relationship with his grandfather, preferring to eat and sleep at his home, while everyone worries that Waliya may be grooming young Saafi for marriage to a much older man.
Then a terrorist strikes closer to home and Farah poses the question, are we ever truly safe in a world where fear of “the other” prevails? Farah is always passionate when delving into the conundrum faced by victims of brutality forced to emigrate to a foreign, often frightening country, no matter how welcoming the new home may be.
An exile himself, from a homeland he can never stop loving, Farah has taught and written in countries all over the world and currently lives in South Africa. His name is always bandied about as a potential Nobel Prize winner, and though it hasn't happened yet, I have no doubt that it will. If you're interested in getting acquainted with him, I have copies of both "North of Dawn" and his 2014 novel, "Hiding in Plain Sight." Send me a comment soon as next week I'm taking the train to the cold north for a couple of months.

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