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Book Launch Party!

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I am consistently stunned by the kindness and generosity of writers who are strangers.

I have goosebumps thinking of Barbara Brown Taylor reading my words.

I cried when I read Abdi’s foreword.

In a world of so much grief, anger, and division this is an event to celebrate hope and connection.

There is goodness. Sometimes we must fight to see it, but is there.

There is beauty. Some of my favorite images of Djibouti are the desert with a single flower. Or a bougainvillea bush tangled in barbed wire. Or the sunrise over a garbage dump. Beauty will insist on itself.

We would love to see you at this book launch party!

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Go Back to the Broken Places

*A post from 2014, reposted. It feels still relevant and I hope it encourages all of us that we can find beauty and hope and perspective even from our painful experiences. What will we think about this pandemic period when we look back from ten years after? How will we be different? How will we be better?

somalilandTwo weeks ago I was in Hargeisa, Somaliland. For the first time since we evacuated in 2003.

I haven’t written publicly about it yet because I didn’t know what to tell you. It felt both normal and terrifying, right and humbling. I was surprised at the physicality of my response to returning. I hadn’t expected to feel so much anxiety, so much hyper-vigilance that in retrospect seems laughable. Probably the suicide bomb in Djibouti two weeks prior didn’t help. Probably the al-Shabaab attack on people watching the World Cup in Kenya, while we were in Hargeisa didn’t help. Probably the way we left in 2003 didn’t help. Probably my own cowardice, weak faith, and the way I have gotten comfortable in Djibouti didn’t help.

But spending a week in Hargeisa did help. Some things have changed, many things have not. But the longer we stayed, the looser my tense shoulders became and I experienced fewer wild images (completely in my own mind) of violence that made my heart race.

The week was a mix of market trips, women’s gym hours, delicious food, remembering how to tuck a headscarf, ideal weather, my fifteenth wedding anniversary, Tom spending hours and hours completing his PhD research, and a hike up one of the hills known as the Girl’s Breast.

There are so many things to share, to reflect on, to say. But for now, I’ll leave you with one thing: Go back.

When something scared you and wrecked your dream and changed your life, and when you are healed and holding a new dream and thankful for the way life changed, go back to that broken place.

What was shattered just might be redeemed. You’ll likely still bear a scar, you always will. But in Bev Murril’s words, it is a scar of honor and you might be surprised at the stories you discover, the gifts you’ve been given, through that very pain.

somaliland2

You might find a slice of beauty there.

 

By |September 18th, 2020|Categories: somalia|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Stronger than Death Book Trailer

Annalena Tonelli spent 34 years living and working in the Horn of Africa. Somalis loved her, and still talk about her with great affection, still carry on her legacy, still continue her work.

But someone killed her. Why?

Why did she stay so long as a foreigner, in the face of massacres, famine, tuberculosis, terror, and war? How did she build a strong local community across religious and racial boundaries, boundaries that today often divide communities?

This is not the story of a white savior, or is it? It isn’t the story of a saint either, or is it? Annalena was far from perfect but her example challenges us all to be a little braver. A little more loving. A little more willing to reach out to someone with empathy, faith, and action.

       

Available from Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.

Thanks to Matt Erickson for providing video clips and photographs and to the Plough Publishing video team!

Stronger than Death, Book Cover Reveal!

I wrote a book.

I’ve actually written many books, from the cloth-covered book about animals running a race I wrote in elementary school, to the several novels that are completed and gathering dust on my hard drives (for very good reasons!), to my self-published books the Djiboutilicious cookbook, Finding Home, and two editions of Welcome to Djibouti.

This coming book has been the work of my heart for almost five years. It is the biography of Annalena Tonelli, a woman who faced disease, terrorism, massacres, lonely isolation, and chose love over fear.

“People would call her a doctor, a missionary, and a nun. And they would call her a saint… Should Annalena be made into a saint? That was how I thought of her, at first. I only knew the high points in Annalena’s life. I knew nothing of the dark valleys, her secret and controversial compromise. I knew she had accomplished something remarkable, something about tuberculosis but also about love and faith…”

It is the product of collaboration with Matt Erickson, so many people I interviewed all over the world, those I followed and pestered, and the Plough Publishing team.

A few months ago I shared the book cover in my Stories from the Horn newsletter.

Now, I want to share the cover here, too.

You may have already seen it, if you’ve visited the Plough, Indiebound, or Amazon, but let’s make this the formal “cover reveal”.

Are cover reveal parties a thing? Like for pregnant moms and gender reveal parties? I feel like they should be, with balloons and a cake a fireworks. Well…oh well.

There is so much I want to tell you about the book, like who endorsed it and some behind the scenes stuff. Like how I’ve been changed through this project. Like how it feels to write a book while dealing with cancer. Like all the ways this book connects to current issues from Ebola to cross cultural relationships and humanitarian aid, to conquering fear and talking about race and faith. I love the way this woman turns these conversations upside down in surprising, even shocking ways.

But for now, here’s the cover! No drama, no explosions, no band playing in the background. Just me and my excited little heart.

(Number 1 new release in Kenyan History!)

You can preorder it here

Plough

Amazon

Indiebound

What could be stronger than death? Only a love bigger than fear and bigger than hate. We need this message more than ever.

Unlikely Marathoners (and, Women Run Without Dropping a Uterus!)

Quick link: The Most Unlikely Marathoners

*photo by Mustafa Said

HARGEISA, SOMALILAND— A cement wall topped with barbed wire surrounds the soccer field where girls gather once a week to play. Boys climb trees or scramble up the wall to peer inside and armed guards chase them away. Here, girls can run.

Across town is a basketball court, not quite regulation-size, also inside a protective wall with a locked front gate. About a dozen girls, most of whom have never played basketball before, are learning ball-handling skills and how to shoot. Here, too, girls can run.

A women-only fitness center downtown has treadmills, but most girls can’t afford the time or money to join, and the hours are limited. For those who can run here, the treadmills are wired to shut down after 15 minutes, to protect the women from injuring themselves.

Female Somali athletes have yet to make any kind of splash in the international running scene. Mo Farah, a Somalia-born Brit, is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the most well-known Somali runner. Ayanleh Souleiman, a Somali from Djibouti, is one of the best active middle-distance runner in the world. Mumin Guelleh, another Somali Djiboutian, placed 12th in his first-ever marathon at the Rio Olympics.

But the most famous Somali runner on the women’s side is probably Samia Yusuf Omar, who is known more for her death than for her life. She competed in the 400 meters in the 2008 Olympics then, in 2012, worked her way from Mogadishu to Djibouti, then across northern Africa. She boarded a boat, hoping to reach Europe and a life where she could live without fear of being shot by terrorists. On the way, the boat capsized and Samia drowned. She was 21 years old…”

Click here to read the rest of the piece, in Deadspin (!!)

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