In a far-ranging collection of personal poetry and prose, “Crossroads: An Anthology of Resilience and Hope by Young Somali Writers” brings together 31 Somali American youth and young adults from Minnesota for a powerful project.
One of the writers is Columbia Heights’ Roda Abdi, who shares a story of personal and family dynamics as the anthology seeks to share the culture and needs of Somali families.
“It was a prose piece about being young, restless and sequestered, and it’s about the range of emotions that can flare up when you’re in close proximity with people you love,” Abdi said. “It recounts a time where the narrator gets her ear pierced, and it’s about the interiority of a young woman.”
The anthology includes several of the top young Somali writers in the state. Collaborating on such a project is a source of immense pride, with different depictions of self-discovery and explorations of dreams coming together for a unified collection of rich history.
“It meant so much to me! I love books and literature, and to finally be a part of something, especially something that is so groundbreaking, is so special,” Abdi said. “I think there was a time where the process was far more abstract, and there was a lot of back and forth for some time, but seeing the final tangible product really did bring a tear to my eye. Especially since this project does bring together a cornucopia of talented young writers.”
The project is especially relevant locally.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali diaspora in the United States, according to the Minnesota Humanities Center, yet still has inequities in education and resources for youth.
“‘Crossroads’ will address many community-identified needs by providing a resource that increases student engagement, helps educators who work with Somali students and families better understand their students and assists non-Somali students to better appreciate the experiences of their Somali classmates,” the MHC said in the book’s release. “Expanding on Somalia’s rich oral heritage, the poems and stories in ‘Crossroads’ speak to the challenges and uplift the opportunities within this growing community.”
A recent book reading had to be canceled due to the social distancing policies, but Abdi is excited to be able to share her work in person with readers sometime soon.
“I was slated to read at the March event that was canceled, but I hope to be involved once we’re all allowed out,” Abdi said.
For now, Abdi is continuing to workshop poetry and busy writing. When readers do pick up “Crossroads” or other work of hers, she hopes they take away the value and importance of the Somali experience within the United States, especially Minnesota.
“I hope they take away that there is an importance to culturally-specific literature, and that the Somali American experience is deeply enmeshed with that of the Minnesotan/American experience,” Abdi said. “Somali Americans are involved in every facet of society, and this includes the arts and literature.”