Somalia: Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

The interesting thing about Somalia is that most of the people living there are actually Somalians. They have many clans, but ethnically they are Somalians with the same language and culture. This is not that common in Africa, where every country has many ethnic groups, languages and cultures. The book I chose for this reading challenge is about coming of age in Somalia and looking for an identity. Maps by Nuruddin Farah is the first book of the Blood in the Sun trilogy.

Askar’s father died in war and his mother died giving birth to him, and he was rescued by a servant, Misra. Misra raises him like up like her own son. Askar is not really bothered about the war over Ogaden between Somalia and Ethiopia until he moves in with his uncle and his uncle’s wife in Mogadishu. Misra is driven out of Ogaden, entering Askar’s life in Mogadishu. Askar is wondering if he should study or fight for liberation. He will have to choose between betraying the woman who raised him or betraying his mother country.

The book deals with many important themes like finding your place on a map, as a sole human being and as a country, as well as nationality, politics, war and family. Somalia and Ethiopia have been fighting on an off since the 1960s, and Somalia is famous for suicide car bombs, which means that the subjects of the book are sadly still relevant today.

I like the way the book is written. It has a nice flow to it, and it is poetic in many ways. Even though the subjects are heavy, it is not a heavy read. The book is written from the perspective of Askar, him looking back at his own life, but it alternates between a first-person and second-person narration. Maps have an important meaning for Askar. He draws, studies and collects maps, which helps him in many ways to understand the world and himself as a whole.

I find this to be a good book when it comes to understanding the relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as a coming of age story in turbulent times. This would be a good choice to read as a first book set in Somalia or Africa for that matter.

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