Adua – Igiaba Scego (Translated from the Italian by Jamie Richards)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“In Somalia I was a young girl who was full of dreams and wanted to see the world. In just a few months they’ve manipulated, abused, used, transformed me. It feels like years, not months, have gone by. I feel so old, practically decrepit.”

“I wish I could ask Marilyn, but she’s dead; she died badly, like so many, too many starlets with more tits than talent.”

Adua was lured to Italy from her home in Somalia to become a movie star. When her biological father, Zoppe , came to take her from her home in Mogadishu to the big city of Magalo , her life began to unravel. Having lived such a harsh life, before and after the death of her mother, Zoppe couldn’t relate to Adua’s romantic nature. He could only tell her that love was nonsense. Too bad he didn’t know to warn her how Italians treated African immigrants, as he worked as an interpreter for Mussolini’s government.

When Zoppe dies, Adua learns that she has inherited the family home in Magalo. Now that civil war in Somalia has ended, will she go back? The circumstances that women had to endure in her own culture would stick with her forever. Also, Italy is her home now, and has been for thirty years. She has learned to take the good with the bad. Like other older women, she takes care of a younger refugee husband.

Adua is a riveting novel that shifts between three perspectives: Zoppe’s life in the 1930s, Adua’s life in Somalia and Italy from the 1970s to current day, and a perspective when Zoppe talks to Adua. You meet their innocent selves and learn how both evolved and matured to how they would eventually become. It’s impossible not to feel for both of them.

The story shows the cruel events and shocking effects of Italian colonialism in east Africa —which I was unaware of— as well as what African immigrants endure in their new country. The story takes historical events and transforms them into emotions and experiences of these two generations. It is not only a book about race and immigration, but also about gender and the plight of women. Author Igiaba Scego, who is Italian -born to Somali parents, writes in the afterward when historical license is taken in sake of the story.

This slim yet thought-provoking book will captivate you at every page. It’s urgent relevancy makes it a must–read for those who want to further understand our world.

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