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This first novel in Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. With his father a victim of the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother dying the day of his birth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescen This first novel in Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. With his father a victim of the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother dying the day of his birth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescent, Askar goes to live in Somalia's capital, where he strives to find himself just as Somalia struggles for national identity.


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This first novel in Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. With his father a victim of the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother dying the day of his birth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescen This first novel in Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. With his father a victim of the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother dying the day of his birth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescent, Askar goes to live in Somalia's capital, where he strives to find himself just as Somalia struggles for national identity.

30 review for Maps

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    A story from the Muslim world in the “Horn” of East Africa, a peninsula that juts out toward Saudi Arabia. It’s kind of blank spot on the map for many of us, but it consists of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti. The story is set in the 1970’s. A young boy grows up in a world of women – his father has been killed in the endless territorial disputes of this area especially the on-going feud over Ogaden, a region disputed by Somalia and Ethiopia. His mother died at his birth, so he was adopte A story from the Muslim world in the “Horn” of East Africa, a peninsula that juts out toward Saudi Arabia. It’s kind of blank spot on the map for many of us, but it consists of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti. The story is set in the 1970’s. A young boy grows up in a world of women – his father has been killed in the endless territorial disputes of this area especially the on-going feud over Ogaden, a region disputed by Somalia and Ethiopia. His mother died at his birth, so he was adopted by the childless midwife. In this world of women he even comes to believe that he has menstruated. This is referred to more than a dozen times in the novel to the point where it seems overdone. The main character grows up as a bright, scholarly “little adult” who looks down on the games and silliness of other kids his age. He is in love with his schooling and his wall maps, trying to figure out his place in the world literally and figuratively. This is a diverse regions with many peoples. He grows up in a tiny village in a Somali-speaking world, but his adoptive mother is Oromo, from Ethiopia and she speaks Amharic (not Aramaic). This ethnic difference is critical because later in the story she is accused of treason by the Somalis and the boy has to decide if he believes this or not and deal with his feelings. The young boy ends up being quasi-adopted by a well-off uncle and his wife in the big city of Mogadishu. In the transition from tiny village to big city, a whole new world opens up to him. Contrary to stereotypes of the Muslim world, the wife is very modern and drives to work as a college professor while her husband stays home to cook and keep house. The boy loves his country and wants to go to war to defend it and to get his territory back. His aunt and uncle want him to pursue his education and forget about these endless, futile territorial wars. So a big theme is the pen vs. the sword. I found this to be a so-so read as a novel but its main value is in the local color of a part of the world that few novels emerge from. (Another that comes to mind is Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Don't give up on this book too soon. I feel the book completely turns around when Askar arrives in Mogadishu and one meets with Hilaal and Salaado. They are marvelous! This is what I thought before this point: I wanted to like this book...... but I don't. I always check Kirkus Reviews because usually they do not praise a book or an author unless it is really good. In their review of Maps, shown on the Barnes and Noble site,they say it is "One of the best novels out of Africa in some time." I am Don't give up on this book too soon. I feel the book completely turns around when Askar arrives in Mogadishu and one meets with Hilaal and Salaado. They are marvelous! This is what I thought before this point: I wanted to like this book...... but I don't. I always check Kirkus Reviews because usually they do not praise a book or an author unless it is really good. In their review of Maps, shown on the Barnes and Noble site,they say it is "One of the best novels out of Africa in some time." I am very disappointed, both in the book and in the B&N review. I have not finished the book yet; I am about half way through. I will force myself to finish the book. I do not like the narrative. I do not think it gives insight of Somalian life. Please read Jess' review below. I agree with every sentence of her review! It seems silly to just repeat what she has said, but read her review and believe it. If I search for something good to say about Maps it would be that sometimes Farah does express intriguing thoughts, such as: "Annoy a child and you will discover the adult in him. Please an adult with gifts and the child therein re-emerges." Think about it, this is true! But on the whole this book is tedious, repetitive and boring. Buying this book was a mistake. If when I finish the book my opinion has changed I will let you know. Well my opinion has changed! I love Farah's writing, and maybe all that I disliked before makes me appreciate the writing now even more. The book does give insights into Somalian life and the ethnic problems at the root of the Ethiopian and Somalian conflict. It also sheds light on other African conflicts. Still reading ...... So in conclusion I would have to say that I do like Farah's writing. I personally do not like books that only express the dark side of life because all life includes sparkles of happiness and humor. Sometimes the sparkles are few and far between, but they are there. A book that dispenses with all sparkles is not true to life and is oh so difficult to read! This book does balance the despair and hopelessnes in Misra's life with hope and understanding and purpose, seen in the lives of Hilaal and Salaado. Askar is in the middle, confused and not knowing which way to be drawn. It is he who must define where he stands, and thus who he is. This book is not easy reading, but well worth the effort. It is not only about African ethnic differences and their implications but also about the balance between body versus mind and fate versus our ability to control our lives. Hilaal and Salaado did not have an easy life, but they chose to direct their own lives and made a point of seeing life's sparkle. They remained compassionate and understanding of others and Misra.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Fantastic coming-of age story. For a culture as mysterious as that of the Somali, this book gives an interesting insight into the people and the wars that they fought, both to liberate themselves and to get to know who they truly are. While the switch in points of view was confusing, it became easier to follow with time. The worldview of Askar, the main character, keeps changing as he grows older, and as the people that surround him react to their worlds, they give him an insight into human natu Fantastic coming-of age story. For a culture as mysterious as that of the Somali, this book gives an interesting insight into the people and the wars that they fought, both to liberate themselves and to get to know who they truly are. While the switch in points of view was confusing, it became easier to follow with time. The worldview of Askar, the main character, keeps changing as he grows older, and as the people that surround him react to their worlds, they give him an insight into human nature, and he learns what his place in this world is. First Nurudding Farah book I am reading. Definitely not the last.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Annoy a child and you'll discover the adult in him[...]Please an adult with gifts and the child therein re-emerges. This book's meaning builds with all the speed of a complacent elephant suddenly provoked to stampede during the last few instances. I will admit to not especially engaging with the beginning, but much as childhood becomes immensely more contextualized upon reaching adulthood, I began comfortably swimming in my preferred ideological medium once the exigencies of the paradigms of Annoy a child and you'll discover the adult in him[...]Please an adult with gifts and the child therein re-emerges. This book's meaning builds with all the speed of a complacent elephant suddenly provoked to stampede during the last few instances. I will admit to not especially engaging with the beginning, but much as childhood becomes immensely more contextualized upon reaching adulthood, I began comfortably swimming in my preferred ideological medium once the exigencies of the paradigms of gender, nationality, and postcolonialism were introduced through various states of dreaming landscapes. It built to a gripping enough question of whether physical or mental fortitude guaranteed liberation that I'll most likely be picking up the sequels should I come across them, although I refrain from digital commitment for one vague reason or another. This reading result made me glad that, if it's taking me a while to acquire a certain work that would introduce me to an author, I'm likely to pick up any in the relevant bibliography should I come across them, as I'm still waiting on Farah's Knots showing up, five years after I added it and two years after I acquired 'Maps'. Farah's no Soyinka or Ngũgĩ, but he has a certain sensibility regarding the work he's doing that I'm very much a fan of, to the point that the novelty of him hailing from Somalia is no longer as vitally necessary for getting my attention. This work is yet another bildungsroman, but unlike what is commonly taunted in pop culture, including the part that thinks itself far more rigorous in its ivory tower nonsense, this story describes invasion, freedom fighting, the division of an oral culture into at least five different language scripts, both African and otherwise, and a persistent undermining of the trope of the child soldier as discussions of cartography, citizenship, and linguistics come into play at the tender age of ten. The talk of blood and other bodily excretions will likely be off putting to some, especially during the beginning of the work, but to shy away from repeated talk of menstruation in a media caked to the gills with portrayals of gory violence is pathetic at best and bad faith at worse. I will admit to not being a fan of the trope (view spoiler)[of woman in a refrigerator (hide spoiler)] that the story culminated with, but the conclusion is supported enough by the burgeoning narrative complexity that such an end was definitely not done for edgy lulz or out of lazy complacency. Beyond that, this work, forces Eurocentric types to recalibrate in the face of a history that is still being lived today, of contemplations of poets in the time of war, and Italian spoken alongside readings of the Koran in schools and at funerals.. In word, this work is truly 'modern', a living blend of corners of the world that refuses white categorization through its very life and soul. I've heard Farah's name traded in whispers regarding future Nobel Prizes for Lit, and after reading this, while it's not a favorite work, I can't say that I can't see where such hypotheses are coming from. It's nice to stretch my international muscles a tad and discover that I can still appreciate the worlds far removed from mine. It's even nicer to go into a more modern realm and discover that the many old things under the sun can still be contorted into new confabulations by enterprising authors, and my thought son gender, warfare, revolution, identity, culture, and what it means to be willing to bleed for something greater than oneself are as much in flux as they were when I read Hugo's 'Les Mis' for the first time all those years ago. Speaking of such politically infused narratives revolution around collective action, 'Maps' is no God's Bits of Wood, but if you've read that and/or any of the other authors I've mentioned, you might as well add Farah to your stacks. I still run across the term "African" being used to encompass merely a single country/culture/people who happen to hail from within the bounds of the continent, which tells me that, whatever (white) people are reading, it's not enough to separate in their minds Nigeria from Kenya from Somalia from Botswana from Côte d'Ivoire from South Africa from etc, etc, etc. A number of African countries have come into being since Farah penned this tome, and it would be best to jump start one's awareness before one's left behind. You look at a map, of the British colonies in Africa, say, a map whose pinkish portions competed in terms of size and imagination with the green which represented the portions of the continent under the French. Now compare the situation today with its ghostly past and someone may think that a great deal of change has taken place and that names of a number of countries have been altered to accommodate the nationalist wishes of the people of these areas. But has the more basic truth undergone a change? Or have we?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shanae

    Great book about identity, the colonization of Africans living within borders established by the colonizers, the fluidity of ethnicity and everything else you can imagine about Somalia and Egypt. Farah is an amazing writer who tells story with all types of imagery...it reads like poetry. I am big on writers who use language to their advantage and Farah is definitely one of those types.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ece

    Although it may seem like a simple theme, we can say that the identity problem and the transparent expression of this identity through race. “Askar seeks his identity, a quest that becomes linked to the identity of the land across which he moves.”

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    Maps is a novel by Nuruddin Farah, a chronicler of modern Africa's sociopolitical turbulence and growth who has lived in exile from his native Somalia since 1974. The first in a trilogy of novels, Maps is rich in concept and execution, beautifully worked in the dense, intricate prose. It tells the story of Askar, orphaned as a child, who is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Eventually he Maps is a novel by Nuruddin Farah, a chronicler of modern Africa's sociopolitical turbulence and growth who has lived in exile from his native Somalia since 1974. The first in a trilogy of novels, Maps is rich in concept and execution, beautifully worked in the dense, intricate prose. It tells the story of Askar, orphaned as a child, who is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Eventually he moves to the capital to live with his prosperous Uncle Hilaal; however, Askar's origins continue to preoccupy him, and he grows into a serious, introspective youth fixed on the urgent question of his identity. Thus we have the central theme of this novel - identity - a theme that is woven with complexity as Askar begins with close ties to Misra, his substitute mother, and as he grows into young manhood with ties to the land, Somalia, metaphorically represented by maps which he studies and learns about first from Misra and later from Hilaal. It is with Misra that the boy Askar begins his journey toward becoming a man. "Indubitably, she had done a most commendable job, training him in the nomadic lore of climatic and geographic importance -- that it was the earth which received the rains, the sky from whose loins sprang water and therefore life; that the earth was the womb upon whose open fields men and women grew food for themselves and for their animals. And man raised huts and women bore children and the cows grazed on the nearby pastures, the goats likewise; and the boy became a man," (p 134) There are unique and striking images presented as Askar lives with Misra. Those of water and of blood, dreams of a future that is yet unknown. "Water: I associate with joy; blood: not so much with pain as with lost tempers and beatings. But I associate something else with blood -- future as read by Misra. Once I even made a pun -- my future is in my blood." (p 36) It gradually becomes true that Askar's blood and future are indelibly connected with Somalia. But her continues his search for identity. His father had died for the future of Somalia and Askar is taught about the past: "'Whose are the unburied corpses?' Then the man smiled. He said: 'Our memories, our collective or if you like, our individual pasts. We leave our bodies in order that we may travel light -- we are hope personified. After all, we are the dream of a nation." (p 129) Hilaal, the cook and nurturer in his city home of Mogadiscio, is able to provide some answers for his baffled nephew on the subjects of African tradition, Somalian manhood and selflessness. Employing a poetic, imaginative style, Farah skillfully juxtaposes Askar's emotional turmoil and the struggles of his beloved Somalia under siege, as the characters try to understand why blood must be shed for territorial gain. In the end, Askar must choose between avenging his soldier father's death by joining the army, or pursuing his academic studies, but the choice is taken out of his hands by powerful external forces. This is a poetic coming-of-age story, following in the tradition of Dickens and many others. Farah makes it new with his poetic style, a unique narrative voice using different points of view, and with the complex relationships between family, friends, and the land. The result is a wonderful tale of searching for the identity of one's inner and outer self in a difficult world.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jaspreet

    About a week ago, I finished reading Maps by Nuruddin Farah . As with most things in my life, I fell behind on the process of writing the review. I told myself that it was okay to hold off on writing the review until I had some questions. Before getting to the questions, I would like to get a (short) general review. The book was surprisingly engaging and powerful. From publisher’s weekly, here is a plot summary: Askar, orphaned as a child, is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a s About a week ago, I finished reading Maps by Nuruddin Farah . As with most things in my life, I fell behind on the process of writing the review. I told myself that it was okay to hold off on writing the review until I had some questions. Before getting to the questions, I would like to get a (short) general review. The book was surprisingly engaging and powerful. From publisher’s weekly, here is a plot summary: Askar, orphaned as a child, is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Even when he moves to the capital to live with his prosperous Uncle Hilaal, Askar's origins continue to preoccupy him, and he grows into a serious, introspective youth fixed on the urgent question of his identity. Hilaal, the cook and nurturer in his city home, is able to provide some answers for his baffled nephew on the subjects of African tradition, Somalian manhood and selflessness. Employing a poetic, imaginative style, Farah skillfully juxtaposes Askar's emotional turmoil and the struggles of his beloved Somalia under siege, as the characters try to understand why blood must be shed for territorial gain. In the end, Askar must choose between avenging his soldier father's death by joining the army, or pursuing his academic studies, but the choice is taken out of his hands by powerful external forces. In a larger sense the book is about the intersection and conflict between family and national identity. The uncle and aunt were my favorite characters and to me they represented the progression from a patriarchal societal model to one that is more equal. LisaMM asked: For either book: what is the significance of the title? In this book, I think that Askar uses maps to find his place in the world. As the war continues, the maps change and he realizes that location is fluid. R asked: Although you haven't reviewed it yet, I'm aware that you really liked Maps. Can you pinpoint what exactly was so gripping or engaging about this book? I have been thinking about what made me enjoy Maps and the only thing I have come up with is the tone of the book. It is serious and at time ominous. However, you can really see the progression of the main character from a young boy to a young man who is trying to fit together the various pieces of information he is given. I also liked the way questions about good and evil were raised and handled. R also asked: I hear that the author of Maps has a very unique and powerful writing style. How would you describe it? Does it compare to any other authors you know? This is a hard question to answer because I seem to have writer’s block in thinking about the author. The only thing I can think of is deceptively simple. The language and words he uses to express an idea are simple on the surface, but the sentiments and insight they provide are incredible. The only other author I can think of is David Malouf who wrote Remembering Babylon which I reviewed here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Although this story jumps around in time from the very beginning, and sometimes steps out of time altogether in dream sequences, it also progresses forward steadily as the problem of the identity of Askar moves from mostly considerations of how the child Askar is defined by and against his adoptive mother Misra, to how those considerations become politicized as we come to understand that Misra is ethnically Ethiopian and Askar Somalian. But the initial definitions of child against mother, boy/ma Although this story jumps around in time from the very beginning, and sometimes steps out of time altogether in dream sequences, it also progresses forward steadily as the problem of the identity of Askar moves from mostly considerations of how the child Askar is defined by and against his adoptive mother Misra, to how those considerations become politicized as we come to understand that Misra is ethnically Ethiopian and Askar Somalian. But the initial definitions of child against mother, boy/man against woman never go away. They are mixed in with the problem of political identities, as Askar comes to understand that he is Somalian, and to consider what that means. But the categories Ethiopian/Somalian are never quite stable either; they are discussed and complicated throughout the book, and the discussion of maps itself brings in further considerations of the relationship between Somalia and Africa as a whole, and between colonizers and colonized. The book's narration, told in third, first and second person, helps create the sense throughout of the instability and plurality of identity. But this discussion of identity formation is never purely abstract, this is all set in a defined place and time, in the setting, to start with, of a region fought over by Ethiopians and Somalians, with Soviet intervention. The book raises possibilities, both uplifting and disturbing--life is sacrifice and the drinking of enemy blood, life is giving and love--but doesn't offer any clear resolutions. It's not always easy to follow. It's brilliant.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

    One almost needs a map to make sense of this novel. It's not that the story is convoluted; it's more the way the story is told. At its core, Maps is exquisitely written with a story that is perhaps a bit too drawn out, but is interesting nonetheless. The language Farah uses to craft this story is phenomenal. There is beauty in the simple construction of many sentences, philosophy in the placing of others. If Maps is any indication, Farah is a very talented writer with a particular knack for the One almost needs a map to make sense of this novel. It's not that the story is convoluted; it's more the way the story is told. At its core, Maps is exquisitely written with a story that is perhaps a bit too drawn out, but is interesting nonetheless. The language Farah uses to craft this story is phenomenal. There is beauty in the simple construction of many sentences, philosophy in the placing of others. If Maps is any indication, Farah is a very talented writer with a particular knack for the English language (Farah writes in English despite it not being his first language). For a reader such as myself, I wonder if Farah isn't too clever. I have a feeling this book offered more profound statements than I was able to take away from it. Particularly, what was the reason behind all the shifts in Maps? There are shifts in time, place, reality, and, most distracting, in point-of-view. Farah heavily utilizes first, second, and third person in Maps, switching at the end of nearly every chapter. Also, there seem to be questions of gender and gender identity at the heart of the novel, but I never spent enough time on the text to decipher what message I was supposed to walk away with. I liked Maps sufficiently, but Farah isn't the kind of author I'd run to again. Linguistically, he reminds me of a more philosophical, more poetic Aleksandar Hemon (another author who wrote in a secondary language), but I found it difficult to stay engaged in the story. Perhaps it was just me and where I was at the moment in life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    The first half of the novel is not comfortable. A child (Askar) in living on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia in an area contested in the war tries to find his place in the world. He is Somali and his adoptive mother (Misra) is Ethiopian. Their relationship is too close for comfort. Askar's sense of self is all wrapped up in hers; in a sense, he is not weaned until he is sent away from the war-torn area to live with an uncle and aunt in Mogadishu. They are well-educated, well-off and apparentl The first half of the novel is not comfortable. A child (Askar) in living on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia in an area contested in the war tries to find his place in the world. He is Somali and his adoptive mother (Misra) is Ethiopian. Their relationship is too close for comfort. Askar's sense of self is all wrapped up in hers; in a sense, he is not weaned until he is sent away from the war-torn area to live with an uncle and aunt in Mogadishu. They are well-educated, well-off and apparently removed from the turmoil. The beginning of the book places the reader in a difficult position of feeling muddled (as is the narrator), having to navigate an opaque and confusing narrative, with shifts in voice (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person), but all are the same narrator, Askar. Time shifts without warning, dreams are inserted without initially being clearly delineated as such, the child narrator is sucked into the weird, dysfunctional relationships of the adults surrounding him. And he is 0-6 in this section, thus with little agency. From early on, Askar is fascinated with maps and there are maps when he gets to Mogadishu as well. Maps trying to define boundaries of contested territories, artificial boundaries created by the British and Italian contested territories. Those who are well-educated speak Italian &/or English. Who are the Somali in this context? Who is Askar, a Somali child raised by an Ethiopian adoptive mother? Where are the boundaries, between Askar and Misra, between Ethiopia and Somalia? Will the maps tell him who he is? Will he join the army to fight for his mother country, he who is in a sense motherless? I'm partway through this and working to finish it before the book club meeting tonight. I'm worried that the book club members won't like it and it is a wonderful book. Just not an easy book, full of literary devices like shifts in time and in voice and magical realism. In some ways, it is a difficult book, both structurally and emotionally. The book club members tend to favor straightforward narratives and plot-driven books. I wanted us to do a Somali book, but was this a good choice? I guess I'll find out tonight. ***** Yep, about 2/3 of the book club didn't show :) Ah well. Those of us who were there had a great discussion and there was lots of pizza leftover. I'm glad I read the book and would read more by Farah.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vishnu Kumar

    Farah tells the story a Somalian boy named Askar, born in the Ogaden to parents we never meet. He is found as an infant next to the body of his mother, dead from his birth, by an Ethiopian outcast woman named Misra. Their bond is incredibly strong, protective, almost incestuous. However, when Askar 7, he gets sent to love with his aunt and uncle in Mogadishu to avoid the Ogaden War that has just broken out against the Ethiopians. Misra turns up in Mogadishu when Askar is 17, under a pall of bein Farah tells the story a Somalian boy named Askar, born in the Ogaden to parents we never meet. He is found as an infant next to the body of his mother, dead from his birth, by an Ethiopian outcast woman named Misra. Their bond is incredibly strong, protective, almost incestuous. However, when Askar 7, he gets sent to love with his aunt and uncle in Mogadishu to avoid the Ogaden War that has just broken out against the Ethiopians. Misra turns up in Mogadishu when Askar is 17, under a pall of being a traitor: rumor has it she betrayed the Somali troop positions to her Ethiopian soldier-lover. The maps of the title refer to Askar's struggle with his own identity - he is Somalian, raised in an area contested between Somalia and Ethiopia, by an Ethiopian woman. At one point, for his fifth birthday, he gets a map, on which he slowly redraws boundaries, uniting all Somali speaking areas into one country. The first few pages of this book had me hooked with beautifully dense, allusive prose poetry. However, the book is 259 pages. Often, Farah lets his considerable lyrical talent overwhelm the novel, leading to ponderous meditations that do little more than dazzle us with language. I still liked the book overall but I wouldn't recommend it to someone who wasn't interested in the intersections of personal and national identity.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott Cox

    This story by Somalia author Nuruddin Farah is an excellent introduction to the heartaches and ensuing struggles currently devastating northeast Africa. This story is the first in Farah's “Blood in the Sun” trilogy. It takes place during the Somalia and Ethiopia conflict over the Ogaden region in 1977. The main characters are an adopted orphan (Askar) and his adoptive mother (Misra); the latter is of questionable national and ethnic background. These characters symbolize the angst of the region’ This story by Somalia author Nuruddin Farah is an excellent introduction to the heartaches and ensuing struggles currently devastating northeast Africa. This story is the first in Farah's “Blood in the Sun” trilogy. It takes place during the Somalia and Ethiopia conflict over the Ogaden region in 1977. The main characters are an adopted orphan (Askar) and his adoptive mother (Misra); the latter is of questionable national and ethnic background. These characters symbolize the angst of the region’s conflict. Just what determines nationality? Where does one’s loyalty lie? What do boundaries on maps convey? This is perhaps best characterized by the following quote from the novel, "The question is, does truth change? Or do we? Do we, men, women and children change? Or does truth?” This novel is a stark reminder that these questions are not easily answered. Farah won the coveted Neustadt Award for Literature in 1998.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Set in Mogadishu and Greater Somalia, Maps is a startling and disarming novel that impugns the borders between countries, peoples, and people while challenging narrative conventions and interlacing prose with the rich tradition of Somali poetry. The most challenging aspect of the book is the usage of second, first, and third person on the part of the narrator. This is the key conflict of identity that persists through various themes and threads in the novel. (In a time of widespread xenophobic bi Set in Mogadishu and Greater Somalia, Maps is a startling and disarming novel that impugns the borders between countries, peoples, and people while challenging narrative conventions and interlacing prose with the rich tradition of Somali poetry. The most challenging aspect of the book is the usage of second, first, and third person on the part of the narrator. This is the key conflict of identity that persists through various themes and threads in the novel. (In a time of widespread xenophobic bias, ignorance of and indifference to Somali history and politics, and a catastrophic famine consuming the Horn of Africa, Maps is both poignant and pertinent.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Juliet Wilson

    This is a complex, beautifully written story of the relationship between a boy and his adopted mother and her relationship with her adopted country (his birth country - Somalia). It is told from three different viewpoints and the language is often quite impersonal so its not the most straightforward book in the world, but it is tremendously insightful into how people see themselves and their country. It's a book to read slowly and quietly to absorb all the layers of meaning. This is a complex, beautifully written story of the relationship between a boy and his adopted mother and her relationship with her adopted country (his birth country - Somalia). It is told from three different viewpoints and the language is often quite impersonal so its not the most straightforward book in the world, but it is tremendously insightful into how people see themselves and their country. It's a book to read slowly and quietly to absorb all the layers of meaning.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Barbosa

    I can say that I loved it - but also hated it. I found some passages very difficult: some were too obscure for me, and other just took me out of the story to the realisation that I was reading a book (in other words, they did not sound plausible). But it is impressive, suffocating, and has so many layers that some times I felt really lost. In other words, it's a must read. I can say that I loved it - but also hated it. I found some passages very difficult: some were too obscure for me, and other just took me out of the story to the realisation that I was reading a book (in other words, they did not sound plausible). But it is impressive, suffocating, and has so many layers that some times I felt really lost. In other words, it's a must read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sorin Hadârcă

    A masterpiece of sorts. To begin with, the highly poeticized narrative is confusing, but you'll get used to it. Next you'll be engulfed in a maelstrom of questions—all pertinent: Is there truth in maps? Why is there guilt if there is no crime? Why we are burdened by bodies rather than wondering spirits? And, at the end, who are we, really? I found it captivating and thought-provoking. A masterpiece of sorts. To begin with, the highly poeticized narrative is confusing, but you'll get used to it. Next you'll be engulfed in a maelstrom of questions—all pertinent: Is there truth in maps? Why is there guilt if there is no crime? Why we are burdened by bodies rather than wondering spirits? And, at the end, who are we, really? I found it captivating and thought-provoking.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    This book is incredible on a lot of levels. I don't think it is for every one. It is a pretty short book, but it's also a pretty thick 200 ish pages. The aspect of this book that I personally love the most is the way Nuruddin Farah tells the story. The narrative is structured in a way I haven't seen too many times and it really itched that lit nerd itch. The chapters in this book cycle between second, first, and third person narrative. In that order. I haven't seen second person perspective used This book is incredible on a lot of levels. I don't think it is for every one. It is a pretty short book, but it's also a pretty thick 200 ish pages. The aspect of this book that I personally love the most is the way Nuruddin Farah tells the story. The narrative is structured in a way I haven't seen too many times and it really itched that lit nerd itch. The chapters in this book cycle between second, first, and third person narrative. In that order. I haven't seen second person perspective used well in a book in a LONG time. For American readers the worry is that second person narration will come off like choose your own adventure books. I'm not sure how much of a concern that is outside of the US, but I know that's the main reason it doesn't happen much here. The second person narrative chapters in this book don't come off that way at all. The "You" in those chapters is still the main character Askar. Those chapters are hinted to be one of the other characters in the book relating Askar's story either in his presence or to him. It adds so much to this story. The second, first, and third person chapters all tell and retell the same events in different enough ways that it is really hard to narrow down what is and is not true. Honestly all of it could be. On top of that time isn't linear in this book at all. So not only are we getting the same stories over and over again, but the order of events keeps changing and when they're being told keeps changing. It's so cool. It honestly took awhile for me to get into the narrative style of the book, but once I did the book just opened up so much. The story itself is really interesting too. The most interesting aspect to me is the interactions between Askar and his adoptive mother Misra. It a compelling description of a complicated family situation. The two of them share a deep love for one another for quite awhile, but the world just keeps adding more and more prejudice on them. Eventually they no longer can be together and the separation is something that both characters struggle with for the rest of the story. I'm trying not to spoil anything, but I found it really good. I am adding this to my transgender related list not because there is a trans character in the story, but because gender plays such a big role in this book. There is a male character that thinks they menstruate and multiple characters that take on the roles of the opposite gender. One of the male characters also spends a good portion of the book talking about the woman they feel is inside them. I find that to be a pretty interesting aspect of the story. Religion plays a rather big part in this book as well. The main religion in the book is Islam. It's a pretty conservative form of Islam in much of the book, but not to the point where it is ultra conservative. I would say it seems, at least in the book, to be similar to Catholics around 1880 - 1920 in the US. Strict, a main part of the practitioner's lives, and the education system includes corporal punishment. The other religion in the book is older tribal traditions and religions in the region. I didn't see it mentioned specifically which ones are being described, but it is in there. I really value this book. It took awhile to warm up to, but I'm really glad I read it. It is tough to say much more about it without spoiling things, and really this is one that should just be experienced. It is a part of a trilogy. I haven't read the other books yet, but I definitely will be.

  19. 5 out of 5

    CTEP

    Maps was written by a Somali author and explores cultural identity and the aftermath of the war between Somalia and Ethiopia. The novel's plot is based on the Ogaden conflict in 1977 and the development of Somalian culture following their independence. I wanted to read this book after a friend suggested it. Several Somali families are Emerge clients that I work with frequently and I wanted to learn more. Nuruddin Farah's story traces a Somali orphan's life. Askar is raised by a non-Somali woman. Maps was written by a Somali author and explores cultural identity and the aftermath of the war between Somalia and Ethiopia. The novel's plot is based on the Ogaden conflict in 1977 and the development of Somalian culture following their independence. I wanted to read this book after a friend suggested it. Several Somali families are Emerge clients that I work with frequently and I wanted to learn more. Nuruddin Farah's story traces a Somali orphan's life. Askar is raised by a non-Somali woman. They meet in the second half of the novel during the Ogaden War, when Askar must judge his caretaker's role in treason. The title, Maps, brings attention to the personal, political, and relational struggles that people face in life, especially environments where identities can cause cultural conflict. The characters struggle with finding a place among their diverse backgrounds. The book really opened my eyes to look at cultures that are foreign to me (particularly recent immigrants) with empathy and understanding. As a book nerd, I would recommend this book to other CTEP members. I felt very ignorant after reading this: I thought that I understood Somali culture and history but it turns out that I really did not. Although Farah does not discuss the partition and eventual secession of Somalia, I felt like the novel had an underlying history lesson. I really enjoyed this book and the author’s unconventional narrative style.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Hoffman

    This book started off really well and for the first half or so, I was really enjoying it. Nuruddin Farah often writes beautifully and poetically. However, it progressed into a book that felt increasingly like a history lesson, and also, somehow, increasingly like a kind of postmodern experiment. The experimental style which I had really liked at first became at times pretentious and confusing and it felt a bit too academic for a novel, especially with its opaque references to various theorists a This book started off really well and for the first half or so, I was really enjoying it. Nuruddin Farah often writes beautifully and poetically. However, it progressed into a book that felt increasingly like a history lesson, and also, somehow, increasingly like a kind of postmodern experiment. The experimental style which I had really liked at first became at times pretentious and confusing and it felt a bit too academic for a novel, especially with its opaque references to various theorists and psychologists. The feeling of the history lesson only bothered me because large tracts of the text began to feel didactic and diverted from the narrative. I think it’s a very ambitious book and it has a lot of beautiful and resonant moments, but Farah lost some of what was really great about his writing in his attempts to be experimental and to teach history. Of course, this is just my opinion and you may disagree with me!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    Farah writes with an intensity that speaks to the ferocity of pain that comes from reckoning with an entire history of colonization and erasure. Visceral doesn't even begin to cover it, but it is the adjective I keep coming back to when trying to describe this novel. The task of the postcolonial writer is an enormous undertaking, raising questions of nation and politics, identity and modernity, terms that have been destabilized to their very cores. There's a violence in storytelling and represen Farah writes with an intensity that speaks to the ferocity of pain that comes from reckoning with an entire history of colonization and erasure. Visceral doesn't even begin to cover it, but it is the adjective I keep coming back to when trying to describe this novel. The task of the postcolonial writer is an enormous undertaking, raising questions of nation and politics, identity and modernity, terms that have been destabilized to their very cores. There's a violence in storytelling and representation, and Maps is merciless in its exploration this, and of seizure and displacement. There's nothing I could say that would do it justice. I sat in silence for twenty minutes after I had finished Maps, grasping for words to say, and here I am, over a month later, realizing that there are no words.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noura

    If I wasn’t reading this book for school, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Which seems to be a theme. Don’t get me wrong, this book is phenomenal. Or it could’ve been... I personally couldn’t stand the writing style. The way the narrative kept switching between first, second AND third person drove me fucking crazy. It was clearly intentional and from a thematic point of view; absolutely genius, especially considering the very last paragraph of the book. I really want to say that all the con If I wasn’t reading this book for school, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Which seems to be a theme. Don’t get me wrong, this book is phenomenal. Or it could’ve been... I personally couldn’t stand the writing style. The way the narrative kept switching between first, second AND third person drove me fucking crazy. It was clearly intentional and from a thematic point of view; absolutely genius, especially considering the very last paragraph of the book. I really want to say that all the confusion was worth it in the end but that would be a lie. I can’t pretend that it didn’t feel severely unedited or that it didn’t make me want to scream into the vast frustration void.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kang-Chun Cheng

    had a really hard time with this- it was pretty short, but couldn't get through it fast enough. i dislike how I read to the end when only a tiny part of it was followable. i guess it's good to read books far beyond you, but this was a bit much. i came away from this book with a sense of its overwhelming obsession with menstruation, blood, bodies. can't say much about the life directions/maps or the Somalian history- that seemed way in the backdrop. i love salman rushdie, who loved this book, but had a really hard time with this- it was pretty short, but couldn't get through it fast enough. i dislike how I read to the end when only a tiny part of it was followable. i guess it's good to read books far beyond you, but this was a bit much. i came away from this book with a sense of its overwhelming obsession with menstruation, blood, bodies. can't say much about the life directions/maps or the Somalian history- that seemed way in the backdrop. i love salman rushdie, who loved this book, but i can't say that I enjoyed Maps much at all

  24. 4 out of 5

    Youssouf

    A first book in my around the world book reading, I was exposed to new things that had somehow slipped out of my mind. Somalia...a country that used to be called "the Switzerland of Africa", a place where its citizens are proud of their knowledge and oral tradition. It was hard to get used to the writing style and the narrative, but I am happy to have read my first Nurruddin Farah's book...More to come for sure.... A first book in my around the world book reading, I was exposed to new things that had somehow slipped out of my mind. Somalia...a country that used to be called "the Switzerland of Africa", a place where its citizens are proud of their knowledge and oral tradition. It was hard to get used to the writing style and the narrative, but I am happy to have read my first Nurruddin Farah's book...More to come for sure....

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

    The approach to handling the narrative line to line felt different than what I was used to, and that was one of the parts that interested me most. It’s denser than it seems and took me longer to get through than I expected because I was stopping to sort more out as I read. I liked it though, perhaps more for the differences than in spite of them.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I don't know what I just read! I need to think about it a day maybe a month. Hmmm? I don't know what I just read! I need to think about it a day maybe a month. Hmmm?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Prose is incredibly lyrical; overall very dense, sometimes inscrutable, generally unenjoyable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    This novel seeks to investigate the instability in Somalia from an original angle, but the narrative is often distracted and meandering.

  29. 5 out of 5

    RD Chiriboga Moncayo

    Powerful and poignant coming of age story in Somalia.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Yacoub Hachine

    Mesmerising poetic and a slowly unfolding.

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