“Hassan! Don’t tune into Berlin when we’ve got guests! The moment war breaks out you’ll come under suspicion as a spy for Germany. We should all be interned.”
“I am not a spy for anybody.”
It is 1938. The world is heading towards the Munich crisis and World War II. Hassan, who had obtained his medical degree in Germany, goes home to Egypt. His wife Jeanne and his five and two-year-old sons, Yasseen and Yazeed, remain in Jamaica, a British colony at the time.
Emigrating Home is a memoir told in fiction form. It follows Yasseen through his childhood and teenage years to an unforeseen predicament that changes the course of his life.
As he is about to set off for school in England, his eccentric Great Aunt Consuela suggests that he is going in search of his father. Yasseen reminds her he is going to England not Egypt. She adds, “One day you’ll go to Egypt. I know. A man needs his father.”
This prediction comes true when Egypt and Britain come into conflict in the 1950s. Yasseen finds himself in a dilemma. He is called up for service in both the British and Egyptian armies.
He cannot think of himself as the enemy of either country. “What do you think I should do now?” he asks a friend. “Buy myself a couple of pistols — one for Egypt and one for Britain — and shoot myself through each ear?”
On his father’s invitation and the advice of a friend, he visits Egypt. There, for a time, things seem to spin out of control because, while he speaks no Arabic, he looks like a native and nobody takes him for a tourist. His father doesn’t want him to leave. “You can go home anytime,” his father says banteringly. “But where is home?”
Eventually Yasseen feels accepted and stays.