4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
First ever LGBT Somali book! Amazing!,
This review is from: Fairytales for Lost Children (Paperback)
I loved this book of short stories about gay and lesbian Somali lives in Kenya and Peckham, South London. The language is a really original mash-up of bits of Kiswahili, Somali and London Blackney. Sometimes it's poetic and lyrical, sometimes it's tough and UK urban. Really unusually Osman gets inside both gay men and lesbians - and trans characters too, so it feels like a wide palette and psychological landscape. If there's an overall theme I'd say it's about acceptance and self-acceptance. I was particularly interested in the stories that deal with mental illness in a vivid and alarming way - including an autobiographical essay about the author's own experiences - but it's not at all a book about that, though mental health problems hit the lgbt community particularly hard.
There are really very few (fictional) books putting lgbt African characters at the forefront, never mind Somali ones, which makes this a unique read. This book is sometimes sad, sometimes sexy and sometimes even funny, and even when it gets dark, it's never despairing. It's full of insights into the migrant experience, the traumas afflicting the whole Somali community, and the challenges and joys of being same-sex attracted in a hostile world. I felt I learned a lot without realising I was doing so - all the fascinating cultural details (like the traditional Somali wedding the alienated lesbian protagonist of Earthling disastrously decides to attend with her girlfriend in tow). Personally I most enjoyed these grittier stories, and yet the shorter, lyrical pieces (like the last one, about braiding marigolds into a lover's dreadlocks) are really memorable and sweet too.
The cute line-drawings (by the author) between each story, and the title, make this a good book to give as a gift, but it's also full of writing of real substance as well. I really liked it a very great deal.