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A MAN OF GOOD HOPE by Jonny Steinberg


by Jonny Steinberg

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-385-35272-7
Publisher: Knopf

Steinberg (Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York City, 2011, etc.) weaves together the many personas of a man whose story is at once unique and an archetypal example of an all-too-large collective.

Asad Abdullahi is many things: refugee, entrepreneur, father, dreamer. In the beginning, though, his identity was simple: a happy child with loving parents living in a city he called his own. That city was Mogadishu, Somalia, and in 1991, Asad's idyllic family life was shattered due to their identity as members of the Daarood tribe. When violence against Daarood men became common, Asad’s father started sleeping away from home to keep the family safe. One morning, he simply didn’t return. Soon after, Asad's mother was murdered by militiamen. As his family and other Daarood refugees fled the violence and eventually their country, Asad was repeatedly separated from those he knew and loved. Upon his eventual arrival in Kenya, the ritual of leaving everything he knew behind became the norm. He created new, nontraditional family units, but he always separated himself from them because, as Steinberg writes, “he is a person with an enormous appetite for risk.” Asad’s adolescent years were marked by a pattern of being taken in and looked after just long enough for him to believe he could improve his life by moving on. So he moved continuously on and sometimes up, carrying the scars of failures and mistakes with him along the way. Steinberg's solid prose is perfect for the task of sharing Asad's history. He probes the darkest moments of his subject’s life without ever becoming maudlin, telling the story starkly and bluntly. He ably demonstrates to readers Asad's absolute refusal to give up while reminding them that, despite his tribulations, in many ways, his path was his own to form.

For truly capturing the power of dreams and the resilience of human nature, this book deserves a wide audience.