cover image Adua


Igiaba Scego, trans. from the Italian by Jamie Richards. New Vessel, $16.95 trade paper (185p) ISBN 978-1-939931-45-0

Scego showcases a talent for portraying intense and quiet suffering in this intergenerational novel tackling European colonialism and the continued mistreatment of migrants. Faced with the possibility of returning to claim an ancestral home in Somalia during a tenuous break in the civil war, Adua reflects on her original journey to Italy 40 years ago. Her abusive, exploitative treatment by the makers of a film she was in soured her dream of becoming a movie star. Her current life as a wife to a much younger Somali refugee who nearly died crossing to Europe disappoints, too; their relationship is more mother-son than husband-wife. Her father, Zoppe, came to Rome on the brink of World War II to work as a translator. His firsthand experience of racial violence in the shadow of rising fascism resulted in his return to Somalia as the servant of a count that altered the rest of his adult life. In between their two stories, Scego includes brief “Talking-To” chapters that capture Zoppe berating Adua, distilling their tense relationship and inability to connect in impressive shorthand. Scego reveals the horrifying details of both characters’ stories in unornamented prose, from Zoppe’s extreme experience of police brutality to Adua’s infibulation. The measured and calm presentation amplifies the impact of these traumas. The lovely prose and memorable characters make this novel a thought-provoking and moving consideration of the wreckage of European oppression. (June)