Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in the mid-1980s; he was stolen away from his home at age four by his father, a stranger to the young boy. With his stepmother and several new siblings, the young Ali lived for a time in the United Arab Emirates and in various cities in the Netherlands. When he was in high school, the disjointed family relocated again to Toronto, where Ali still lives, writing Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir from a homeless shelter.
The traumas start early, with the national distresses of Somalia represented by Ali's socialist grandparents and his mostly absent businessman father. Ali's stepmother and stepsisters are violently abusive toward him and toward each other. He suffers in the increasingly white countries he is moved to, as an immigrant, foreigner, African. Bullied at school, he must also deal with discovering his sexuality in an immigrant Muslim family disinclined to accept a gay son. Eventually, his coping mechanisms for these and other difficulties include addictions to Valium and alcohol.
His book is filled with suffering, but Ali avoids self-pity with his matter-of-fact reportorial style and the odd, acerbic interjection. His focus is global as well as personal, as he considers Somali history, colorism within nonwhite communities, the way one marginalized group can abuse another, and observed trends in racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Angry Queer Somali Boy is painful but recommended reading for anyone hoping to look directly at this world. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia