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Encinitas resident’s Somali background figures into new novel

ENCINITAS — In 2005, Yasmeen Maxamuud left Washington, D.C., to begin a new life in Encinitas with her new husband, Abdel Hassan, a fellow Somali-American she met at a conference in Minneapolis. Hassan has worked for Ecke Ranch for several years and is currently operations manager.
“Coming from an ethnically diverse place such as Washington, it was quite a culture shock,” Maxamuud said of her arrival in the beach community. “At first I wouldn’t go anywhere without my husband. After three months I thought, wow, everyone’s normal.”
Maxamuud said she fell in love with the coast right away.
“It was so natural for me,” she said. “It is very mellow, very healthy for my creativity.”
Maxamuud had an idea for a book that sprang from her experience on Sept. 11 when she had to walk for six hours from her office in the heart of D.C. to her home in Silver Spring, M.D., when public transportation came to a halt.
“I was just as scared as any other American,” she said.
After moving to Encinitas she began work on a fictionalized account of the American experience from the perspective of women who immigrated to the United States during Somali’s 1991 civil war.
That book, titled “Nomad Diaries,” was recently released. It is a novel about Nadifo, the former wife of a Somali minister of foreign affairs who loses her wealth during the war. After arriving in Minneapolis in 1993, she finds work under horrific conditions in a chicken factory.  
Nadifo is a composite of several women Maxamuud interviewed.
“She is a woman who faced challenges and tragedy, but who transcended her environment and is moving forward,” Maxamuud said. “She is happy to be alive and know that her kids have the opportunity for an education. She is also happy to be able to send money back to Somalia and support her extended family.”
Maxamuud does not categorize herself in the immigrant group she writes about.
“My father earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the United States in the 1970s,” she said. “It was because of him that we knew we were going to live in America. We were middle-class and not part of the refugees fleeing because of the civil war.”
Maxamuud left Somalia as a child in the 1980s. Her father’s work in the oil business took the family to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Cyprus before settling in Silver Spring, Md., when she was 17. She became a American citizen and a college graduate.
“My mother was illiterate,” she said. “She wanted her daughters to get all the degrees we could earn. She said we could have children later.”
Maxamuud earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in African development of public policy from Howard University. Her sisters were also college educated.
“My mother was a huge part of creating strong young women who were given choices,” she said. “We are very modern, very well-educated and very well-read. I love to watch ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘Two and a Half Men.’ We are your typical Americans except we are Muslims.”
Since moving to Encinitas, Maxamuud has enjoyed the opportunity of participating in a tolerance program at The Grauer School.
“I let children touch my scarf and my hair,” she said. “They see the scarf as oppressive. I see it as an accessory and want to demystify it.”
Maxamuud founded a mentoring organization for Somali youth called the Center for Bridging Communities in City Heights. She volunteers throughout the week, promoting education and health awareness particularly as it relates to the adverse affect of the fast food diet on Somali children.
Since so many Somali youth excel at rap and poetry slams, Maxamuud recruited elders to teach traditional proverbs, poetry, songs and folklore to the younger generation.
“They need to understand why they are so poetic,” she said. “Before we were known as the pirate community, we were known as the poetic community.”
To schedule a presentation for a school or group call (610) 881-7331. To purchase a book, visit nomaddiaries.com or amazon.com.
Maxmuud will be offering a reading of “Nomad Diaries” at San Diego Central Library at 6:30 p.m. April 19.

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4 comments

heblayo April 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Hi I jus wanted to say that this article consistently uses the word “somalian” which is incorrect. It is Somali. The people are Somali, the language is Somali and the country is Somalia. Thank you!

Abdillahi Xalaal April 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

Same comment as Hambalyo,
The People are Somali (singular form); Somalis (as Plural form). This is rather embarrassing when you are writing a book about a people/country,but you cannot get them addressed the right way at all.

Other than that, this is good article.

Abdirahman Takhal April 13, 2010 at 6:54 am

Very informative article.I learned about Yasmeen, the author of the book “Nomad Diaries” more than I knew her.

Much appriciation to Ms. Cox for such a short, but substantsive indroduction of Yasmeen to those of us who are eager to know more about this rising star among Somali writers.

Kudos article!

Mohamed Hakeem April 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

Very interesting artical about yazmeen,I am really appreciated Yazmeen writting about the book “Nomad Diaries’. It is very detailed story about Somali families, and How they are really struglling to adjust new life in their new home, America.I recommend to everyone read it.

Comments are closed.