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Poetry review

Kvinner som hater mennKvinner som hater menn by Sumaya Jirde Ali
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't let the title put you off this book, nor the sub-title-cum-blurb on the back which reads: jeg er en svart kvinne som plukker opp bøker og legger dem tilbake på feil plass. THAT made me laugh and want to read the book, but I know that both the title, Women Who Hate (Men) ... and the quotation, "I am a black woman who picks books off the shelf and puts them back in the wrong place..." are apt to provoke a strong reaction in potential readers and make a fair number recoil. What Sumaya Jirdi Ali does in this collection is pick up everything you thought you knew about a Somalian-born hijab-clad young woman living in Norway, toss it in the air, and watch it settle into unexpected formations on shelves you didn't know you had.

If you are lucky enough to hear Sumaya read her work, then you will know that the sound of that forced rearrangement and shattering of paradigms is beautiful and powerful spoken-word poetry. Much is being made of this book as a contribution to the public debate on immigration and so on, and indeed it is. Yet its greatest value in my mind is the promise it holds for the poetry that is yet to come from this voice. Sumaya Jirde Ali is a powerful poet, full stop. Whatever she says is worth listening to, because she transforms human experience into poetry that is worth listening to.

That she at the age of 20 has attained the level of wisdom she has, is as well-read as she is, and has the grasp of her poetic voice that she does is awe-inspiring. But it would be patronizing to suggest that her accomplishment is astounding because of her young age. Her accomplishment is astounding because it portends the magnitude of what she will be able to contribute, given her young age, in so many years to come. Inshallah.

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This entry was posted on 19/11/2017 by in book review, Books, Life in Norway, Poetry.

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