Son of Elsewhere: A Memoir in Pieces
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A “funny and frank” (The New York Times) collection of essays on Blackness, faith, pop culture, and the challenges—and rewards—of finding one’s way in the world, from a BuzzFeed editor and podcast host.
“A memoir that is immense in its desire to give . . . a rich offering of image, of music, of place.”—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
At twelve years old, Elamin Abdelmahmoud emigrates with his family from his native Sudan to Kingston, Ontario, arguably one of the most homogenous cities in North America. At the airport, he’s handed his Blackness like a passport, and realizes that he needs to learn what this identity means in a new country.
Like all teens, Abdelmahmoud spent his adolescence trying to figure out who he was, but he had to do it while learning to balance a new racial identity and all the false assumptions that came with it. Abdelmahmoud learned to fit in, and eventually became “every liberal white dad’s favorite person in the room.” But after many years spent trying on different personalities, he now must face the parts of himself he’s kept suppressed all this time. He asks, “What happens when those identities stage a jailbreak?”
In his debut collection of essays, Abdelmahmoud gives full voice to each and every one of these conflicting selves. Whether reflecting on how The O.C. taught him about falling in love, why watching wrestling allowed him to reinvent himself, or what it was like being a Muslim teen in the aftermath of 9/11, Abdelmahmoud explores how our experiences and our environments help us in the continuing task of defining who we truly are.
With the perfect balance of relatable humor and intellectual ferocity, Son of Elsewhere confronts what we know about ourselves, and most important, what we’re still learning.
Praise for Son of Elsewhere: A Memoir in Pieces
“Funny and frank, delivered in such a generous spirit that almost any reader is bound to be won over.”—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
“I remember the day Elamin Abdelmahmoud told me he was writing a book called Son of Elsewhere; just the title broke my heart and somehow still drew me in. Abdelmahmoud is one of our generation’s most gifted and emotional writers. He takes us on a fascinating journey of self-discovery, from an awkward adolescent immigrant boy trying to fit in to a courageous young man struggling to carve out an identity of his own without severing his roots. Abdelmahmoud reminds us that, while his story is uniquely his own, we can all learn something about ourselves in ‘The Elsewhere.’”—Brandi Carlile, Grammy Award–winning artist and New York Times bestselling author of Broken Horses
“Son of Elsewhere is a profound, tender collection of stories that speaks to those who exist in and out of liminal spaces. It’s a narrative that forces readers to interrogate Blackness beyond American borders, American exceptionalism at the expense of Black and Brown people, and identity between separate languages. Abdelmahmoud is a skillful cartographer of place, architecture, and human emotion, blending them together so effortlessly that one will walk away from this debut seeing the symphony—and collision—in the mundane and the extraordinary. With this book, Abdelmahmoud announces that he is here and we should be so thankful for that.”—Morgan Jerkins, New York Times bestselling author of This Will Be My Undoing, Wandering in Strange Lands, and Caul Baby
“It is astounding how accurately and honestly Elamin Abdelmahmoud manages to map the strange territory between cultures that so many migrants call home. The interlinked essays in this collection, which filter the immigrant experience through everything from country music to professional wrestling fan fiction, manage to pull off a rare trick—at once sincere, ironic, hilarious and profound. Son of Elsewhere is the sort of book that can only come from a writer both incisive and open-hearted. Abdelmahmoud, to our great fortune, is both.”—Omar El Akkad, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of What Strange Paradise and American War
“Son of Elsewhere is marvelous and wise and fascinating. Like a conversation with one of your smartest friends, Elamin Abdelmahmoud offers a unique perspective that feels both familiar and challenging. It’s a privilege to read.”—R. Eric Thomas, bestselling author of Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America
“Elamin Abdelmahmoud’s Son of Elsewhere achieves what all nonfiction work should: a unique type of universality. His writing feels like a magic trick—every page is charming, funny, and yet painful, a collection that presses on your most tender feelings, like a bruise yet to heal.”—Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
“Hilarious and somber, introspective and rollicking, this search for self is breathtakingly original.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)