A Man of Good Hope

Jonny Steinberg. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-35272-7
South African journalist Steinberg (Sizwe’s Test) vividly recounts one Somali man’s experience of diaspora, resulting in a book that is part biography and part contemporary history. Steinberg first met Asad Abudullahi in 2010, in the wake of the South African riots that targeted the thousands of refugees, among them Asad, drawn there by the promise of a better life. In 1991, Asad, not yet in his teens, fled the anarchy in his native country, ending up in Kenya. He honed his survival instincts in Nairobi’s slums before traveling to Ethiopia in search of members of his fractured family. In Ethiopia, he found work as a truck driver’s assistant and grew “broad shouldered and tall,” his body a “badge of elegance…[and the] legacy of hardship.” When Asad eventually reached South Africa in 2004, he took on the dangerous work of running a shop in one of the country’s poorest townships. The gaps in Asad’s account sometimes elicit skepticism from Steinberg, but, on the whole, his deep empathy for his subject overrules his doubts. The extent of Asad’s loneliness struck Steinberg during one interview where he began to comprehend the tenuous, fleeting nature of Asad’s connections to everyone he encountered during his harrowing odyssey. The book’s subject matter may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but Steinberg’s thoughtful approach and Asad’s attitude of droll resilience make for a tale that any reader can appreciate. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/08/2014
Release date: 01/06/2015
Open Ebook - 978-1-322-37254-9
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8041-7104-5
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