A lyrical first-hand account of a complex and charismatic modern-day African heroine. ""Aman"" (a pseudonym meaning...


AMAN: The Story of a Somali Girl

A lyrical first-hand account of a complex and charismatic modern-day African heroine. ""Aman"" (a pseudonym meaning ""trustworthy"" in Arabic) is a gifted narrator who recounted her tumultuous life first to anthropologist Barnes, who died in 1990 before the project was completed, and then to Barnes's designated successor, Boddy (Cultural Anthropology/Univ. of Toronto). Though herself illiterate, like many Somalis, Aman treats speaking as an art. Whether recounting her experiences as a brave nine-year-old Muslim girl in a nomadic village taking pride in her ritual clitoridectomy (a practice she defends in a milder form), as a rebellious adolescent bride, or, after fleeing her husband, as a resourceful teenage prostitute on the streets of Mogadishu, she is possessed of a strong will and a quick wit. But her story is even more compelling as seen against the cultural, political and religious backdrop of Somalia, where, as Boddy writes, girls are the country's ""most vulnerable citizen[s]."" Aman loves her land, but Somali girls, she says, need to receive more respect: ""They should get love and a little freedom -- otherwise the daughters will suffer like I did."" Aman offers colorful accounts of daily life in a society based on pastoral nomadism and anchored by a camel economy, and recounts fleeing Somalia first for Kenya, later Tanzania, after the Siyaad Barre--led military coup of 1969. Aman's story spans a period of great social and political transition for Somalia in the 1950s (she was born in 1952) and 1960s. However, it is not until Boddy's afterword that specific dates and background data are presented. This somewhat awkward construction alienates readers by abruptly switching them from Aman's intimate journey to an anthropological catalog of information. Nonetheless, a unique and rich account of life in a fascinating and troubled land.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1994


Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994