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Black Mamba Boy
Nadifa Mohamed
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 2010

–› Excerpt

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Aden,1935; a city vibrant, alive, and full of hidden dangers. And home to Jama, a ten-year-old boy. But then his mother dies unexpectedly and he finds himself alone in the world. Jama is forced home to his native Somalia, the land of his nomadic ancestors. War is on the horizon and the fascist Italian forces who control parts of east Africa are preparing for battle. Yet Jama cannot rest until he discovers whether his father, who has been absent from his life since he was a baby, is alive somewhere. And so begins an epic journey which will take Jama north through Djibouti, war-torn Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camp, across the seas to Britain and freedom. This story of one boy's long walk to freedom is also the story of how the Second World War affected Africa and its people; a story of displacement and family.


The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy, 1997
Rahel with her pineapple hair and Love-in-Tokyo hairbands is an unforgettable character and Velutha could be so many people in so many places.
- NM

Jeffrey Eugenides, 2002
I found it on the floor of my friend’s room in Geneva as I was beginning to write my novel. I stayed up all night to read, he had me enthralled.
- NM

Eugene Onegin
Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, 1823-1831
A lyrical, amusing, gorgeous, ageless book.
- NM

Toni Morrison, 1987
When I first read Beloved, I wondered why Morrison had added this kind of supernatural, ghost-y thing to a really intense slave story. But then it made perfect sense, when you think that that life was not normal. Anything was possible, any type of horror was possible.
- NM

Under Milk Wood
Dylan Thomas, 1954
A play that reads like a poem, I love its humour, suppleness, musicality, It feels like a daydream and it gave me an example to aspire too when writing about my own little village in the valleys of Eritrea.
- NM

Marabou Stork Nightmares
Irvine Welsh, 1995
A book with soul, I think the structure is incredible and Welsh’s writing is always idiosyncratic, funny and wise.
- NM

The Aeneid
Virgil, 29-19 BCE
Rich, boundless language so similar to that used in Somali poetry, book one and three are particularly gorgeous.
- NM


Black Mamba Boy
–› Excerpt

A novel set in 1930s Somalia spanning a decade of war and upheaval, all seen through the eyes of a small boy alone in the world.

What is the What?
Dave Eggers, 2006
A similar story to my father’s which made me weep but also smile, Fainting Boy especially so.
- NM

The Yibir of Las Burghabo
Mahmood Gaildon, 2004
This is one of those books that changes the way you see the world, I saw through this book another Somalia, a place of isolation, humiliation and constant threat.
- NM

Going to Meet the Man
James Baldwin, 1965
In this short story Baldwin does a rare thing, he writes completely convincingly from the perspective of a man he is diametrically opposed too, I felt I had a glimpse into the soul of a man who commits unforgivable acts.
- NM

By the Sea
Abdulrazak Gurnah, 2001
From Zanzibar to the English coast, I love books about journeys and this one is particularly beautiful.
- NM

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
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