What a smashing book!
In this book Aman tells about her life. Aman is not her real name, it means ‘true’, truthfull’, so what she writes is true. This is the way her young life has been. She tells the story of her life to the writer Lee Barnes, who passed away just before the publication of this book. Another writer/scholar Janice Boddy took over her work and wrote an extensive afterface, in which she writes about the context of the life of Aman. The role of familyties, the rolo of female circumcision (FGM) and the political and colonial history of Somalia.
Aman was born in 1952, during the days that Somalia was under a mandate from the United Nations. Under the stipulations of the mandate the former colonial power Italy was allowed to continue work in the country and prepare it for independence. A bit peculiar because before Italy took over Somalia the area was an independent entity!
Aman does not start her history with her birth, but she goes way back to her mother and grandmother. She tells about the clanlines of her ancestors. She tells at length about her mother, was was given away in marriage at a very young age to a much older man. And then a long journey starts from one marriage to another marriage. But all the time Aman’s mother wants to be independent.
During the days of the Italian mandate Aman grows up. Just like her mother she wants to be independent. But she still has to be circumcised, with all the trappings of it. That gets even more clear to her when she is given away in marriage (at her own urging) to a much older man. Next she wants to get rid of her husband as soon as possible, in order to be independent woman. At that time she is about thirteen years young. Just as we have seen with her mother, there follows a long history of relationships and marriages. Her great love is an Italian boy. But her father sends the boy to Italy a few times to end this love-relationship.
Aman ends up in Mogadishu, the capital city. Through her clancontacts she meets girls from her own age and at the same she is down and out in Mogadishu. She lives at the edge of being a misstress and a prostitute. At a party she gets to know a man from Aden, who is a musician. Aman gives birth to thier son. When a coup d’état takes place her husband is forced to leave the country. Aman does not get a passport, in order to follow her husband with her son. She takes her son to her mother, because she has decided to flee her country and travel to Kenya, due to the dangerous situation in Somalia. Via Nairobi and Mombasa she travels on to Tanzania. Here she meets many clanmembers who give her shelter. In Tanzania she enters into an other marriage, with a man from Somalia.In Tanzania she starts her own bussiness and travels to different countries.
After four years she visits her mother and little son, who still live in Mango Village. All of these years in Mogadishu and abroad she has supported her mother. This where the story of Aman ends.
After the years in Tanzania she moved to Italy, where she met another husband and they both live in the United States.
What a life for a teenager! Through the scholarly afterface her life is put into perspective. It shows that marital faithfullness is not one the strong points of Somali society. In this way the story about the marriages and relationships is not exceptional.
Aman – The Story of a Somali Girl – 1994