Shugri Said Salh • Algonquin • Release Date: August 3, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Salh delivers a powerful story of her upbringing as a nomad and what it means to be a young girl in a conflicted and rapidly changing Somalia. Her resilience begins when, as a child, she goes to live with her grandmother in the desert. In that “vast, limitless” terrain, she adapts to a new lifestyle that includes herding goats and making yoghurt. Here, she learns that home is an ever-shifting, ever-evolving idea. Home also means building a strong community with her clan in the desert.

While Salh pays tribute to her homeland, she also describes, in harrowing details, the horror of female genital mutilation perpetuated by a misogynistic culture that ennobles patriarchy and polices the bodies of girls, especially their virginity. Genital mutilation, here, is defined as a rite of passage every young girl in her community must endure, which is now at odds with the life the author leads as a mother and a nurse. Salh later joins her family in Mogadishu, where she receives an education, but violence soon rears its head and pulls the country apart and she and her siblings flee to Kenya, then Canada, and later, to the United States.

This effortlessly told story documents both a personal and national history of strife. Also central to this story is Salh’s homage to her mother, who she calls an “ageless desert flower.” Salh’s unforgettable memoir is about hardship, the “rhythm and rituals of nomadic life,” and a victorious song at the end of personal and national trauma.

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Megan Ross is the author of Milk Fever (uHlanga Press, 2018) a collection of poetry, and several short stories and essays that have gone on to achieve critical acclaim.

Feature image: Algonquin