- Title: The Last Nomad
- Author: Shugri Said Salh
- Genre: Nonfiction
- Rating: 4 out of 5
Born in Somalia, a spare daughter in a large family, Shugri Said Salh was sent at age six to live with her nomadic grandmother in the desert. The last of her family to learn this once-common way of life, Salh found herself chasing warthogs, climbing termite hills, herding goats, and moving constantly in search of water and grazing lands with her nomadic family. For Salh, though the desert was a harsh place threatened by drought, predators, and enemy clans, it also held beauty, innovation, centuries of tradition, and a way for a young Sufi girl to learn courage and independence from a fearless group of relatives. Salh grew to love the freedom of roaming with her animals and the powerful feeling of community found in nomadic rituals and the oral storytelling of her ancestors.
As she came of age, though, both she and her beloved Somalia were forced to confront change, violence, and instability. Salh writes with engaging frankness and a fierce feminism of trying to break free of the patriarchal beliefs of her culture, of her forced female genital mutilation, of the loss of her mother, and of her growing need for independence. Taken from the desert by her strict father and then displaced along with millions of others by the Somali Civil War, Salh fled first to a refugee camp on the Kenyan border and ultimately to North America to learn yet another way of life.
This was a fascinating read! I don’t know much about Somalia, so that was pretty much all new to me. Parts of this were extremely difficult to read—the explanation on FGM and how it was accepted and sought after, the way Shugri was abused by her sister when she got to Canada—but it was a powerful, moving read with a lot of hope on its pages.
Shugri said Salh was born in Somalia but now lives in California. The Last Nomad is her story.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)