A new to me author in translation, Igiaba Scego is on the blog today with her latest novel, a story of emigration, assimilation and broken dreams. Please read on for my review of
I wasn’t wholly sure what to expect from this story: from the blurb it is clearly a tale of a woman who emigrated from Somalia and a difficult life, only to find more and different challenges in her new city of Rome. Opening with an uncomfortable start, the protagonist, Adua, is bearing up under a series of berating commentary which harken back to her own difficulties with her relationship with her father. Her choice to leave Somalia was based partly in this relationship, and partly to follow her dreams of being an actress, not a possibility in the post-colonial governmental regime. For forty years she has been struggling against those who would seek to oppress or deny her opportunity, some based in her difference, others in the legacy of issues surrounding the us v them debates when discussing refugees and immigrants, and when you add in the overwhelming attitudes about Africa and the lack of potential therein, there is plenty of food for plot here.
And while Adua’s story is harrowing and sad, one takes heart in the fact that she continues on: perhaps because there are no other choices, perhaps just a testament to the strength of her own character and dreams, but she continues. Day after day as dreams become further from reach as doors close and the queue of those willing to accept her in positions that will exploit her skills and person while still managing to set limitations on her forward progress.
What emerges is an interesting, if not wholly flushed out character: notable for her story, but much of it felt “done” to her, without any real reasons for her to continue. If I were to find the cause for that – I would point to the many threads and elements brought into the plot: ambitious elements that did provide some history, background and information needed to understand some of what she faced, but so many pieces and time spent to that, without giving a clear or direct correlation to the characters, or even providing dialogue that offered some sort of contrast between what is and what should be helped to bog the story down, at least where developing a connection to Adua was concerned. It’s not difficult to feel sorry for her struggles, or wonder why things couldn’t have been different, but it was as if that emotion wasn’t tied to her as a person, but to the populations in transition as a whole, those hoping for new and better lives in countries far from their homes and all that is familiar.
Not a bad read by any sense of the word, and the history presented brought me a whole new perspective with discoveries about the colonial ambitions of yet another European nation, as well as the fallout when colonial powers leave and countries self-rule. Another book that highlights the variety of perspectives, viewpoints and lesser-known histories of the world we inhabit: some with legacies that we are still battling now to varying degrees of success.
Author: Igiaba Scego, Jamie Richards
Genre: Assimilation, Contemporary Fiction - Adult, European History, Historic Elements, Refugee Stories, Setting: Italy
Published by: New Vessel Press
Published on: 22 May, 2017
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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“Utterly sublime."—Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
Adua, an immigrant from Somalia to Italy, has lived in Rome for nearly forty years. She came seeking freedom from a strict father and an oppressive regime, but her dreams of becoming a film star ended in shame. Now that the civil war in Somalia is over, her homeland beckons. Yet Adua has a husband who needs her, a young man, also an immigrant, who braved a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. When her father, who worked as an interpreter for Mussolini’s fascist regime, dies, Adua inherits the family home. She must decide whether to make the journey back to reclaim her material inheritance, but also how to take charge of her own story and build a future.
Igiaba Scego is an Italian novelist and journalist. She was born in Rome in 1974 to Somali parents who took refuge in Italy following a coup d’état in their native country, where her father served as foreign minister.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: