Yusuf (Somalis in Minnesota, 2013), who grew up as a nomad in Somalia and arrived in the U.S. without a high school diploma, uses Somalia's geographical landscape and culture to create an intricate braid of short stories about family, identity, escape, destruction, and return.
In “The Mayxaano Chronicles,” a young woman struggles to find her place in a society that sees no value in her existence despite the skills, intelligence, and activism she demonstrates. “The Vulture Has Landed” offers a harrowing narrative of a young married woman who, while raising her younger sister, also prepares her for the inevitable visit of soldiers bent on revenge. The dream of a new start for himself and his family is what keeps Aar, in “A Delicate Hope,” from despairing over the disarray of life in Mogadishu. “The Lion’s Binding Oath” presents a fantastical relationship between a boy and a lion. Hassan, a high school student separated from his family whilst they flee their home during the civil war, finds himself accompanied by a lion. Despite some interesting situations, excessive dialogue often bogs down the storylines. At times, the lead protagonists are scuppered by other characters and fail to fully inhabit their space.
Although Yusuf's short stories offer various insights into Somalia, the reader is left wanting for greater nuance in order to come away with a more focused view of the country and its people. (Short stories. 16-adult)