In the year 2006 the Dutch/Somalian writer Yasmine Allas (1967) travelled to her country of origin. When she was ten years old her father was killed. A few years later she decided to leave Somalia and in 1989 (or was it 1987?) she reached The Netherlands and settled there. Her grandfather was a sailor who had been in The Netherlands and he had told about this country. In 1991 her mother and sister arrived in the Lowlands.

Her journey to Hergeisa was the first time she returned. She did not return on her own. She was accompanied by a team for a documentary in a series in which guests visit places in Africa. Yasmine returned to her roots. The leader of the production team was Paul Paul Rosenmöller, a former trade-unionist and politician from The Netherlands. The documentary was shown on Dutch television on May 27, 2006.

Now let me take you to this book by Yasmine Allas. She published this book in 2010. The protagonist is a Dutch/Somalian woman who who returns to her roots in a country with no name. She had left this country over 20 years before and now she returns for the first time and searches for her roots. She is accompanied by two people for she is the subject of a documentary.

So do not be surprised when people think that are real lines between Yasmine and her trip to Hergeisa and the protagonist (nicknamed ‘Torretje’) who travels to her country of birth.

The story travels between Torretje’s youth, her time in Amsterdam, her time in the present at her place of birth. So times and places shift all the time. At times this is a bit confusing. Each chapter is headed by the name of a place and the month and year. So, it is at times a bit confusing, but the signs on the road are present to guide you.

To me this book is a book about roots. Where does Torretje belong? Is she a Somali women living in The Netherlands? Is she a Dutch lady who has Somalia-roots? Or is she the in-between lady? Even in her relationship with her Dutch boyfriend it is at times very hard. She adjusts to the Dutch situation but he does not make any effort to take a step into her direction. Torretje finds it very hard when her boyfriend (and his mother) have a look at the pictures from his youth. She does not have any pictures, she does not have anything tangible, she only has memories and memories do fade. 

She has contact with the only sister to her mother, Ahlan. Ahlan now lives in Australia and she has received news that she can get the Australian nationality. In a phone-call she talks about an Australian identity, but what is that identity? She want to adjust, but adjust to what? 

Ahlan encourages Torretje to take her life in her own hands, to make her own decisions, to take her own steps, even to ask her boyfriend to marry her. It is a way to construct your own identity. An identity with many building-blocks, gathered along the way. 

Yasmine Allas – Een nagelaten verhaal – 2010

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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