Having read Maaza Mengiste’s ‘The Shadow King’ not too long ago, I’ve become quite curious about East African stories, especially stories that include East African countries’ involvement with Italy in the early part of the 21st century. When I came across ‘Adua’ on the publisher’s website, I knew I’d want to read this book and immediately placed an order.
Adua, an immigrant from Somalia to Italy, has lived in Rome for nearly forty years. She came seeking freedom from a strict father and an oppressive regime, but her dreams of becoming a film star ended in shame. Now that the civil war in Somalia is over, her homeland beckons. Yet Adua has a husband who needs her, a young man, also an immigrant, who braved a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. When her father, who worked as an interpreter for Mussolini’s fascist regime, dies, Adua inherits the family home. She must decide whether to make the journey back to reclaim her material inheritance, but also how to take charge of her own story and build a future.
The story of Adua – a girl who decided to chase her dream – is touching, raw, and deeply memorable. It is full of pain and disappointment, speckled with gendered violence and discrimination. Her initial arrival in Italy takes us back to a time when Black and female bodies were violently exoticised and degraded. In fact, I should probably not even say that the story ‘takes us back’ to a time when this happened, because the exoticisation and violent degradation of Black women’s bodies happens up until today – the process may vary, but the result is the same.
Adua’s story intermingles with the story of Zoppe, her father. We get to know him initially as a hard, unfeeling man, who instills fear and timidity in people who have to deal with him, but a little bit later on, we start hearing his story, and it is just as disheartening and saddening as that of his daughter.
Zoppe’s and Adua’s stories are the stories of millions of Africans across the globe.
Zoppe’s story is that of millions of Africans who have been forced from their homelands to foreign countries, only to be treated worse than dogs by the indigenes of those countries. His suffering is immense but his resilience is unwavering.
‘Adua’ exposes the impact of colonialism, racism, imperialism, and forced migration on real people. It’s an incredibly relevant book, touching on both past and present issues through poetic prose and memorable characters. Set against a historical background that has, for too long, been silenced and shoved aside, ‘Adua’ is full of love, pain, and loss. It is a novel that is relevant on many levels of the human experience, and if you liked ‘The Shadow King’ my guess is that you’ll probably love ‘Adua’.
In this novel, Somalians, and by extension Africans, shine bright, and their history is told and treated with the respect they have not been afforded by outsiders for far too long.
A sublime and memorable story of love, war, and resistance.