Title: Home Is Not a Country // Author: Safia Elhillo
Date of publication: March 2nd 2021 by Make Me a World // Print length: Hardcover, 224 pages
You can buy this book from Amazon
A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places–for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds.
Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.Until she doesn’t.
As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.
Nothing short of magic…One of the best writers of our times.– Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times Bestselling author of The Poet X
Diversity Tags: POC cast -the entire main cast is POC, and a small part of the minor cast
Trigger Warnings: minor – mention of death, gun use, mention of cigarettes, graphic – racism, bullying, poverty
Writing Quality 5/5, Character Development 5/5, ‘Couldn’t put it down’ – ness 3/5, Intellectual Depth 5/5, Originality 5/5, Overall 4.6/5
Now, if I do not make you stop whatever you’re doing to go to buy this book, I didn’t do my job right. Home Is Not a Country has been one of the best poetry books I’ve read, and one of the clearest and hardest to read. When I say hard, I do not mean the language was hard, but I refer to the social issues approached. They were well explained, the author doing a great job when it comes to showing rather than telling.
I have never been the subject of racism based on the colour of my skin and religion, and yet I could feel the pain through the pages. The book talks about racism, xenophobia, poverty, bullying, and many other real and sadly common topics. Even if the first part was quite something when it comes to the tragic reality of so many people, the second and third parts were a bit more hopeful. We have sprinkled some magical realism, and if you are into that kind of stuff, you should definitely give this book a try.
Nima’s story was touching, and I would be lying if I told you I didn’t cry at least once. Powerful and vivid, this was a stunning story about finding yourself and loving who you are and what you represent.
Meet the author
Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House, forthcoming), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021).
Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee (receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.”
Safia’s work appears in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her work has been translated into several languages, and commissioned by Under Armour, Cuyana, and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.
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*An ARC of the book was provided to me by Qamar Blog Tours and Penguin Random House as part of a promotional tour.