Where I Belong

by Gillian Cross

Contemporary Somalia is the subject of this ambitious novel told in the alternating... read more

Contemporary Somalia is the subject of this ambitious novel told in the alternating voices of three teens: Abdi, a European-born Somali living in London; Khadija, a Somali-born refugee who has come to London illegally and is posing as Abdi’s sister; and Freya, the London-born daughter of a high-power fashion designer. Freya’s mother, top-flight fashion designer Sandy Dexter, is inspired by Somalia for her latest collection. She spots Khadija in the Somali community in London and immediately pegs her as the key to the collection’s debut—she will be the secret model, Quarsoon (“The Hidden One”). The London couture industry contrasts starkly with snippets of Khadija’s family’s life back in Somalia, harshly impacted by drought and political turmoil. When Khadija’s brother in Somalia is kidnapped and held for $10,000 ransom, it seems to be tied to her emerging role as Sandy Dexter’s newest discovery. But no one is supposed to know the closely held secret of Khadija’s modeling, although a Somali friend of the family who runs the internet café where Khadija sends email home is offering to pose as Khadija’s father in negotiations with Sandy. Events reach a climax when Sandy insists on debuting her new line in a Somalia village in a show that will be web-streamed to London for fashion week. While Abdi is making the first visit to his cultural homeland, Freya is disillusioned by her mother’s seeming exploitation of the Somali people, and Khadija can think only of her brother’s safety. The author casts a light on the turmoil in Somalia, set within a broader framework of family connections and intersecting cultures. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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