A-Man-of-a-good-hopeIn “A Man of Good Hope,” Steinberg continues his in-depth style, focusing on a few people and how their lives have evolved. Asad Abdullahi was 8 years old in 1991 when Mogadishu fell to invaders. His mother was murdered in front of him; Asad fled with an uncle. He is now in his early 30s and for all his short life he has been fleeing. Asad’s losses, repeated over and over again, would have destroyed someone of lesser spirit. His tragedy was to be a Somali at a time of chaos. He thought he was from Mogadishu, but learns in his wanderings that his father, Abdullahi Hirsi, was really from the Ogaden in Ethiopia. He never saw his father again, nor did he know he could have found him in the Ogaden, when he was there — his clan name, AliYusuf, would have opened doors.

When he loses his uncle, Yindy, the daughter of his father’s sister, helps him. Asad recognizes her by her eyes and her teeth, two features he always focuses on. In Kenya they join refugee camps holding 160,000 Somalis for two years. Asad’s education was the product of his wit. Yet he could read, write, and had a knack for languages, that would “take them upwards,” so he learned Swahili, English and then Amharic. Later in South Africa he learned Xhosa.

In 1993 Yindy told Asad that they had qualified for resettlement in America, he as her son. They moved to a waiting center outside Nairobi. When 11 and 12, Asad was moved alone to Eastleigh, a center for Somalis, where he survived as a street kid, based at an AliYusuf place, the Hotel Taleh. Using his fluency in Swahili he could help new arrivals and could mediate between the police and Somalis who had been arrested. The police trusted him.

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