Book Review: ‘Elsewhere, Home’ is an enchanting collection of short stories

“Elsewhere, Home” was published by Telegram in 2018, an imprint of Saqi Books. (Shutterstock)
Updated 26 August 2018
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Book Review: ‘Elsewhere, Home’ is an enchanting collection of short stories

  • Aboulela is an award-winning author whose novels have won and been longlisted for multiple awards
  • Within each of Aboulela’s stories is a place for cultures to melt into one another

CHICAGO: Longlisted for the People’s Book Prize 2018, “Elsewhere, Home” by Leila Aboulela is an enchanting collection of short stories that stretch from the heart of Khartoum and its “bone-colored sky” to the coast of Scotland. In each tale, Aboulela explores the concept of home and the nostalgia associated with leaving home.
The collection begins with “Summer Maze,” a story in which a mother and daughter attempt to find a connection through their constant struggle between modern versus traditional lifestyles as they travel from Heathrow to Cairo for vacation. Aboulela’s stories are based on relatable narratives — she tells of a convert from Edinburgh who travels to Khartoum to marry the woman he loves and, in another story, a woman sitting on a bus in London whose nostalgia takes her back to the waters of the Nile and the brother she lost on his wedding day. The reader is dropped into the middle of her character’s lives — their struggles and hopes have already been established and we only witness fleeting moments in their complex lives.
Aboulela’s stories bring with them the warmth of the Khartoum sun and the shimmering sunlight that reflects off of the White and Blue Nile.
Aboulela’s characters — both men and women, young and old — are resolute, sometimes flawed, but always aware of themselves. Her female characters are strong and ever-conscious of the world they live in. Her characters are deeply imbedded in their multiple identities, in their African identity, Arab identity and Muslim identity, all of which contribute to their outlook.
Within each of Aboulela’s stories is a place for cultures to melt into one another, in which discomfort is dispelled by a new sense of comfort, and in which non-aligning relationships are aligned and a new common ground is established. Each story reminds us that the need to coexist stems from a need for love, home and belonging.
Aboulela is an award-winning author whose novels have won and been longlisted for multiple awards. “Elsewhere, Home” was published by Telegram in 2018, an imprint of Saqi Books.


What We Are Reading Today: African Dominion  by Michael A. Gomez

Updated 25 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: African Dominion  by Michael A. Gomez

  • Michael Gomez unveils a new vision of how categories of ethnicity, race, gender, and caste emerged in Africa and in global history more generally
  • Islam’s growth in West Africa resulted in a series of political experiments unique to the region

Pick up almost any book on early and medieval world history and empire, and where do you find West Africa? On the periphery. This pioneering book, the first on this period of the region’s history in a generation, tells a different story. 

Interweaving political and social history and drawing on a rich array of sources, including Arabic manuscripts, oral histories, and recent archaeological findings, Michael Gomez unveils a new vision of how categories of ethnicity, race, gender, and caste emerged in Africa and in global history more generally. Scholars have long held that such distinctions arose during the colonial period, but Gomez shows they developed much earlier.

Focusing on the Savannah and Sahel region, Gomez traces the exchange of ideas and influences with North Africa and the Central Islamic Lands by way of merchants, scholars, and pilgrims. 

Islam’s growth in West Africa resulted in a series of political experiments unique to the region, culminating in the rise of empire. A major preoccupation was the question of who could be legally enslaved, which together with other factors led to the construction of new ideas about ethnicity, race, gender, and caste — long before colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.

Telling a radically new story about early Africa in global history, African Dominion is set to be the standard work on the subject for many years to come.