Somalis have made my city of Wilmington, Delaware, [their home] on a smaller scale. There is a large, very identifiable Somali community, i might add if you ever come to the train station with me you'll notice I have great relationships with them because there's an awful lot driving cabs and are friends of mine. For real. I'm not being solicitous. I'm being serious.
There were fat cats and skinny cats. The long-tailed and the bobbed. The daring young leapers, and the old windowsill sleepers. Balls of waddling fluff, smooth-coated prowlers, and hairless ones that looked fragile and wise. The tiger-striped, the ring-tailed, and the ones with matching coloured socks and mittens. There were tabbies and calicos. Manx and Persians. Siamese and Bombay. Ragdolls and Birmans. Maine Coons and Russian Blues. There were Snowshoes and Somalis, Tonkinese and Turkish, and many, many more. Brown and beige and orange and grey and black and white and silver cats, each with gleaming eyes of emerald, or sapphire, or amber. A rainbow of precious stones.
Who do I write for? I thought about this again and again over the next few days until the answer crystalized in my consciousness. I write for all readers. But my primary interest is in representing the complex but universal experience of Somalis. I do this because the media representation of the global Somali community is one that is carved out of derivative cliches crammed with pirates, warlords, terrorists, passive women and girls whose entire existence seems to be nothing more than a footnote on the primitive dangers of female genital mutilation. I write because I want to give a long-overdue voice to a community that has experienced a tremendous array of challenges but who constantly face these challenges with the most wicked sense of humour, humility and dignity. My father always used to tell me that in our culture, the done thing when you're facing hardship and your belly is empty is to moisturize your face, comb your hair, press your clothes and step out into the sun with your sense of humanity intact. It's a lesson I've carried with me to this day.