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The Somali Diaspora

A Journey Away

2008
Authors:

Abdi Roble and Doug Rutledge

The Somali Diaspora

The heartbreaking and hopeful story of Somali immigrants in America

The Somali Diaspora traces, through photographs and essays, the journey of a family from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to new lives in the United States. The work takes readers from civil war in Africa to the culture shock of arriving in the United States, growing roots in the Somali community, learning English, finding work, and—in a remarkably short time—participating fully in American life.

The Somali Diaspora is remarkable in its ambition; it is a necessary book, very much worth reading and buying, and an important addition to the work done on the Somali presence in North America.

Nuruddin Farah, author of Knots and Maps

Since 2003, photographer Abdi Roble and writer Doug Rutledge have been documenting the lives of Somali immigrants in the United States and of the people forced into the vast refugee camps that were set up in Kenya in the wake of the 1991 civil war in Somalia. In The Somali Diaspora, Roble, who immigrated to the United States from Somalia in 1989, and Rutledge trace the journey of a family from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, home to more than 150,000 Somalis, to new lives in the United States.

The Somali Diaspora follows the family of Abdisalem, his wife Ijabo, and their three daughters as they struggle to survive in Dadaab before being relocated first to Anaheim, California, where they barely make ends meet, and then to Portland, Maine. In addition, the book portrays life in two of the largest Somali communities in the United States. Minneapolis is home to more than 80,000 Somalis, who have created an established community in which many of its members are educated professionals. The Somali community in Columbus, Ohio, while thriving, has not yet enjoyed as warm a reception from the larger community.

The story of the Somali diaspora as told through Roble’s intimate photographs and Rutledge’s insightful essays is extraordinary and inspiring. Together they take readers from civil war in Africa to the culture shock of arriving in the United States, growing roots in the Somali community, learning English, finding work, and—in a remarkably short time—participating fully in American life while sustaining a faith in Islam and a distinct cultural identity.

The Somali Diaspora

Abdi Roble is an award-winning documentary photographer from Columbus, Ohio. He immigrated to the United States from Somalia in 1989. He is the founder of two photography groups, Focus Group and African American Photographers of North America, and the founder of the Somali Documentary Project. His photographic exhibitions include One Month in Europe with Leica, Leica Portrait of Cuba, Japan: A Leica Perspective, and, most recently The Somali Diaspora and Against Forgetting: Beyond Genocide and Civil War.

Doug Rutledge has taught English and English literature for twenty years. He is the author of numerous plays, poems, and essays, and his writing has appeared in Somali Link and Hiran Online.

Doug Rutledge is a poet, playwright, and independent scholar of the English language and literature. He regularly contributes to Hiiraan Online, Somali Link, and The African Voice—Ireland and is the writer for the Somali Documentary Project. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

The Somali Diaspora

The Somali Diaspora is remarkable in its ambition; it is a necessary book, very much worth reading and buying, and an important addition to the work done on the Somali presence in North America.

Nuruddin Farah, author of Knots and Maps

Having traveled many of the steps of the Somali diaspora, Abdi Roble always photographs what he knows and cares deeply about, making these photographs as much autobiography as photojournalistic narrative. The Somali Diaspora deftly chronicles the almost irreconcilably odd collision of cultures that emerges out of relocation, but with hope and sympathy throughout. It also performs the important job of making Minnesotans, and Americans at large, look at and take stock of the society we’ve created that they seek as refuge.

George Slade, artistic director, Minnesota Center for Photography

Opening The Somali Diaspora is like finding a hidden doorway into the lives and experiences of Somali immigrants to the United States. This book will serve to give us all a deeper sense of connection to anyone whom we may come to call ‘neighbor’ and ‘fellow citizen.’

Omar Jamal, executive director, Somali Justice Advocacy Center

The book is a feast that replaces the agonizing negativity that had engulfed the community for so long. Roble and Rutledge are to be commended for all the hard work that went to bring this book to fruition. A picture as they say is worth a thousand words, the cover of the book for that matter says it all, Somalis have come a long way. The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away has certainly captured its rightful place in Somali literature.

Wardheer News

Roble’s compilation truly attempts to do justice to the diverse community it covers, representing both marginal and majority sub-populations within the Somali community. Roble and Rutledge’s powerful collaboration exists as a meaningful historical account for a community struggling to collect itself from a devastating civil war. But above all, the piece expresses tremendous hope in, and for, the Somali Diaspora in Minnesota and elsewhere.

Mshale

Through the Somali Documentary Project and this book, Roble and Rutledge are helping to create a new photographic history not only for the Somali community but also for the larger American community.

Multicultural Review

You may never meet a photographer with the ‘eye of an eagle’ quite like Abdi Roble, nor will you likely meet a writer with the talent of Doug Rutledge. These two gifted individuals have captured earnest human experiences in a new book on the Somali Diaspora—the worldwide emigration of Somalis from the homeland. The Somali Diaspora is the most complete, well-written book to come out of the crisis in that country and the new life being discovered in places such as Rochester and Minneapolis.

Rochester Post-Bulletin

The Somali Diaspora, with beautiful but haunting photographs and eloquent text by Roble and Rutledge, is trying to start a dialogue among Somalians and Americans that will help to foster communication between the two cultures so that both peoples may understand each other. . . . Both Abdi Roble and Doug Rutledge are to be commended for the work they are doing.

The Journal of African American Studies

Photographer Abdi Roble and writer Doug Rutledge combine forces in The Somali Diaspora, a portrait of a family starting a new life in America. It provides an insightful look at Minneapolis and Columbus, home to the two largest Somali communities in the United States.

Columbus Alive!

The Somali Diaspora

UMP blog: Hanging out with friends in Minneapolis, by photographer Doug Rutledge

9/02/2009
On a very pleasant Minneapolis evening, when Abdi Roble and I were finished working for the day, we found ourselves being driven toward our hotel by a young Somali man, Warsame, whose family we had been documenting. While Warsame was taking us home, our friend Paul, who is also a documentary photographer, called and suggested that we meet and talk about our work. He asked if we could go somewhere he could have a beer. My two Somali friends were quite comfortable with that suggestion. Warsame had recently finished his term in the armed forces, so he clearly was not unfamiliar with American men who wanted to have a beer.
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