When the name Africa is mentioned, I automatically think, black. What comes to your mind? A contaminated thought, that’s what comes to your mind. However, I’m I conditioned to think this way or is it just a pointer to the color of our skin; my skin to be exact. Is there more to this blanket judgment or are my thoughts skewed to the darkness that Africa is associated with? In no way does this form the gist of why I write this blog but it felt like an interesting way to kick things off.

My name is Musa Asubuhi and I do a variety of things even as I live. I write, obviously… Other than writing I also enjoy reading. It is the reading that brings us letters to face and I hope I am coherent enough to dock this ship in your jetty… too much? Then let’s get right to it.

Elsewhere, Home is a collection of 13 short stories by Leila Aboulela, a Sudanese author who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. The stories are rich in African cultural nuances and raise curiosity among those who haven’t reached the lands it describes while… well, I wouldn’t know what it does for those who have. A touch of Egypt here, Sudan there, a lot of the Nile and a hint of Scotland. The book is rich, to say the least, it’s interesting and though I felt it started a bit slow… once you get the hang of it, you don’t want to let go. Yes, a little bit like driving a car.

Numerous themes bob through the different narratives though some don’t bob about, they stand as towers, light houses in fact, drawing the sailor’s (You) attention to the fact that there is land but also giving emphasis to the land. Some of the solid fixtures within the story are:

  1. Islamic feminism
  2. Third culture kids
  3. Mixed relationships/marriages
  4. African students studying abroad
  5. Africans working abroad

… and other interesting themes that were present but only made singular occurrences. Ah! The food, the food my friend.

I have thought about what theme to focus on, I have given it a fair amount of time and I came to a realizing realization… that I am stunted in my travelingness (sic).  I haven’t explored this beautiful continent, let alone the globe that we call home. I think of this as a major damper, to a lot of things that would set me out as a success. While I sit here and dream, in my red corner, I think of my counterpart, my doppelganger in exploration who must have seen hundreds of countries at my tender age. What does that feel like? The different cultures and meals. That does water my eyes. Clearly something worth leaving my red corner for. But, then there is the hustle of travelling, jetlag and a myriad of other inconveniences. With a smirk on my face and a shrug of my shoulders, I feel comfortable right here on my red corner.

But, just for a minute or two, let me imagine; join me as I do and if you have travelled, try not to spoil it for those of us who haven’t.

Millennia ago I travelled as a free spirit, exploring the vast jungles. Hundreds of years ago I travelled as a captive, tied down, together, wallowing in filth, decades of years ago I travelled to learn, to reunite and explore, albeit this time I went further with already formed tales about the lands I was visiting, stereotypes. Now, now we travel while seated wherever we are, we explore right in our safe zones and have millennia right at our finger tips. My question is… where is home? Free spirit you, where is your home? Shackled and mistreated you… do you know where home is? Stereotype defined and defining you… might you know where home is? Right on your couch you… any idea?

Wait!

I will not try to belittle you by telling you I know where home is. I just wanted you to get a glimpse of what was happening in my mind when I kept reading the title to Leila’s book, Elsewhere, Home. I would love to say I get it, but I don’t. I am actually ok not fully getting it, the journey is fine with me; I’m at home on the road. I don’t like it when people oversimplify it and say it’s just home somewhere else… where else? I remember once, once when I was a free spirit, then I was gradually shackled and then thought I was in charge of my own life until I was too scared to step out of the couch and face the cold floor. I had socks on when I did, it wasn’t because of the cold. Foot note1.

The raw nature of Elsewhere, Home is beautiful, in a clear but abstract manner based on our times. Its truth, it happens, and yet, it’s all our stories with some of us left out. On my first blog post, I would love to give a breakdown of just one theme in this beautiful book, but my mind doesn’t work that way. Remember, we were free spirits, then got shackled, then thought we knew what we wanted but sadly we are chained to our couches. Leila’s book, Elsewhere, Home is subtle, refined and points unashamedly. The stories point at us, at me. They are real stories about beautiful people and interesting experiences. There are outstanding themes such as:

  1. Islamic feminism
  2. Third culture kids
  3. Mixed relationships/marriages
  4. African students studying abroad
  5. Africans working abroad

… and other interesting themes that bobbed around, including food, but I kept coming back to the name, Elsewhere, Home.

Maybe it nudged at my desire to know home, remember it, understand it, possibly, if lucky, help affirm it to others. Something about the name of the book made me feel homesick even before reading about the many characters in the book who were in fact homesick after travelling to faraway lands. Pregnant away from home, mistreated away from home, judged away from home, dating away from home, married away from home… as lonely as this can sound, its life Elsewhere, Home. (1,042)

1 It gets really cold in county 34, not the point but I mean, foot, note, socks… lost you again?

7 thoughts on “A WHICHKITABU BLOG POST: ELSEWHERE, HOME BY LEILA ABOULELA”

  1. “When the name Africa is mentioned”, I automatically think about the great voice reader of Quran. Because I have heard many of African could read the Quran with MasyaAllah beautiful voice. By the way, did this book have an ebook version ? regards

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