tv Author Discussion on Refugees CSPAN December 31, 2021 6:02am-7:00am EST
festival big tonight i want to start out by thinking everyone on behalf of humanities tennessee are key sponsors the metro arts commission tennessee arts commission, and parnassus books. thank you so much for making this possible in these extraordinary times. let's see we are going to be in conversation tonight with two extraordinary african immigrants. one is shugri said salh and the other is mondiat dogon. his book is throw those we throw away our diamonds. hi everybody. welcome to the southern festival of books. >> thank you. can everybody hear me? >> okay. can you hear me? >> i can absolutely hear you. >> i can hear both of you. >> this is great pretty want
to tell you bookseller is parnassus books repurchases of the books of any books from any part of the festival help keep this festival free. humanities, tennessee staff will place the book by links for that session and the top of the chat. the festivals of free nonprofit event sponsored in part of you appreciate the event want to support it you can do that in the app or by visiting the website www.hq mtn.org. let's talk a little bit about her authors, shugri said salh was born in semi is an immigrant first to canada and then to the u.s. going to talk about the part before she got to the u.s. tonight.
wasn't sonoma county youth works as an infusion nurse. and mondiat dogon was born in eastern congo to the to teach iv attended university and where he was for very long time what do they call the refugee camp? >> yes. you will hear miraculous story how he came to attend nyu and lives in york. so welcome. shugri said salh i'd like to start the. your book starts with your girlhood in the desert were you were with your grandmother. she was really an extraordinary woman who had a truly specialized skill set for living the harsh somalian desert. can you tell us a story that helps us understand how she
served riding that beautiful but harsh way of life? >> my grandmother came of age really from early on that is when she grew up. when i think of my grandmother, what comes to mind is how she really tamed the desert. it's one of the hottest environments. the scorpions, snakes there's lions and hyenas. from what i learned in her history, she really learned from early on she was a poet and married my grandfather was also a lawyer. my grandmother really learned -- i remember her when i was ten years old i remember her a job that was given
usually two men. but she did all of that. she created poetry you would know if you're sitting there what she was saying. i was given as a gift of labor to that grandmother. i grew up under that amazing activist and in her shadow. that's what i remember most about her. what i want to follow up on that the name of your book is the last nomad. are there any remaining? is there still a nomadic way of life in parts of somalia? >> i believe it still exists although the climate change affected everybody. it has more effect on places like deserts. but for me i called the last nomad because i am the last of
my family. so by describing the book most of my siblings i was the daughter given as a gift of the labor to my grandmother. my siblings stayed up in the city and grew up with my father my father was a teacher. he won both his sons and daughters to get an education. it was my mother she knew she had to take one of her daughters and give her to that world and that was me. some may say i was an unlucky thing that i did not grow up with my siblings and my parents. but in a way i felt the desert prepared me for life more than anything for that time i was there. >> it's a wonderful part of the book to read and she must've been quite an extraordinary person. mondiat dogon the political
situation the congo and rwanda was and remains complex. can you give us a short history of the conflict that goes with your family across the border to a refugee camp in rwanda? >> thank you so much and thank you everyone watching. i think there are two reasons that made my family to the refugee camp. i think the first reason. [inaudible] people came to africa -- at that time my family. [inaudible] did not have a place to stay. when went to the camp they were literally part of africa.
homeless. [laughter] the other side of the conflict , in rwanda there was genocide against the tutsis. there was genocide by the tutees in rwanda. they started killings to alleviate people like my family. that is the village that was the last time i saw the village the place were i called home. >> just a follow-up question, can you tell us, to the congo
and rwanda have good relations or do they not have good relations? rex you mean back then or now? >> give us a brief history, back then did you feel safe in running away to rwanda? >> yes because the current president of rwanda new refugees and rwanda. back in 1959 the they were really oppressed in rwanda. they fled to uganda. they came from east africa from kenya it was over the power in rwanda. 199-4195 they took power they say. [inaudible]
>> right and as you said it had been one territory divided up by the europeans. so there was familiarity. >> back then, the region were villages. so it was one. besides speaking of rwanda. [inaudible] back then in the congo they divided out. >> right, right as trying to give people a sense of what was going on there. shugri said salh i want to come back to you and asked, tell us a little bit about the
somali tradition of large extended families. you moved around to look at their father, then your grandmother, then back with your father, i think some of your siblings you spent time in orphanage than an older sister. what can you tell me about the somalia extended families in your experience with that? >> i often describe, this story is a bit more complex. my family is kind of unusual even within the somali culture and families. i am saying that just to give a quick view, my mother was young girl of 15 when my 40-year-old father married he was a teacher in the city. so i am kind of nervous today and i don't know why.
>> host: don't be nervous you're doing wonderful. >> i don't know why. what happened is my father had been an educated man who wants all of his children to get an education, married my young mother. so it was that kind of relationship because my mother was a young person she was kinda going back and forth. every time she goes back to the nomad we kids would go back with close from that. so we struggle between those two worlds. and what was kind of common for some men but not every man did it was polygamy. my father had many, many wives at that time. my mother and up having nine children for him. another woman and up another nine children. we were all together now 23 children.
it kind of created some situations where my father obviously, not all of the are happy about the situation. we are still, because 23 children we are still supported some children. and sometimes it's for you as well. we are still having some family members that did not make it through. i was staying with some family member i have to send money to and all of that. that is kind of comment and the somali culture but also not every somali man choose to marry a lot of wives. i have a lot of friends, you know what's going on as i'm hearing the echo of my voice. that is what i'm hearing, do you guys hear that? >> host: you sound good to
me. you are fine. i'm sorry that's happening. >> make sure my phone is unlocked. anyway, so like i said, not every man has multiple wives. but my father did. i'm sure there are some men who marry a lot more wives for i know a friend of mine's there are 50 of them. i think i could not imagine that being my problem. i do not want to paint every man is doing that. just trying to be respectful, not every man does that. >> host: among the things i wondered, it must be a big change being here for you live with your own nuclear family. how do you adjust without a large extended family around
you? >> when i first came to canada i was really close. i figured out what the problem was the door was open my neighbors dog was barking. i get easily distracted. you are asking how i get used to not living with that. when it came to canada it's a very lovely, right? i even described in the book when i was going to the bus stop and in africa in somalia the bus is always calling for people and they're playing all kind of music. but in here, when i come to
canada literally the bus is arriving at the precise time it said it was going to arrive. and it was quiet. it was not easy to learn. i was still really getting used to that. i still have my family. and then, honestly, my whole thing is returning to metes out loud in here. anyway i moved here, and my voice is coming back to me it is so loud. >> host: you sound great to us. >> it's distracting to me because the sound is so like an echo it so loud. you are a member when i first got on and came back let me see. oh, i see what is going on
here. okay, can you guys hear me? >> of course. >> guest: and then i married my husband, their families from ethiopia. i still continue to have enough family around me. we traveled to africa all the time. honestly i keep hearing my voice every word i speak comes back to me. so what i'll see if we can work on that. >> yes i'm hearing my whole voice back to me i'll try to troubleshoot it from here. >> host: i want to turn to you and ask, is a very young child you witnessed, and experienced almost an unthinkable amount of violence all around you. there's an anecdote in the book or just at five years old
you had to tell your friends mother that he did not survive a particular attack. and then you were constantly aware of your surroundings and one point you are captured and forced to be a child soldier. can you talk a little bit about what it has been like to have what they called adverse childhood experiences? >> guest: thank you. maybe five or six of those when a span of a year or two years or even six months in a war and it's what you've known since you were five years old. for me i remember the first day i attended this school did
not have chairs, we did not have desks. we did not have textbooks. we had to do is we had to sit on annie's duel, i want to show you how in any situation when you are a child, everything can be achieved with the demand of the way of living. it was the first time we didn't have chairs we did not have platforms. i was living in a situation where i could be dying, people around me. [inaudible] change my mind and a chance to see another child is put in a situation. and another thing, they died
when their hiding in one place. they went to the house and were killed. situations with a child. there is example i was in the village in the congo. so when i went back there. during the war they don't see the news spread their living in rural areas, i was in a place where you cannot hear. so that is the memory the mind of a child or children in the village. it's the way they can function when they are in a situation
where they can do whatever. i tried the situation. i tried to adapt that was the only way to survive. >> adaptability was the tool you had at your disposal. and resilience. obviously you are able to be very resilient over and over in such uncertain circumstances. were you just born with it or did you parents counsel you, you will get through this? was it partly spiritual for you, religious training? or did you just keep putting 1 foot in front of the other? : : :
from that moment i realized that [inaudible] that kind of mentality. >> right. so you are born with it. amazing. i want you to describe a little bit about the journey from congo to rwanda. how far it is. how long it took you. what you are able to take along with you. >> sure. that is how we left. we became these people. it took almost nine months.
>> they helped you apply to the university and then paid your fees and books and such. >> i applied. the education they sent you back they sent you in their, when i was there they say you can't do anything because you are a refugee. and then i went back to the refugee camp for the first year. that is how it had the training speared the refugee camps. >> what an absolute life changer. what a game changer, as we say. we will come back to that in a minute. i want to talk to you about the
somali, that was your home. it began to shift for us to be sort of flavor as well. what did that look like for you and your family? >> thank you so much. it is quite different. i describe in the book how i was a little girl. maybe 15, 16. celebrating birthdays speared you know, it is always a guess with the somali speared really, being in high school and
watching, you know, seeing that play out. seeing a young girl with traditional clothing. and then moving. when i stopped doing this, it is because i am hitting that. >> i really hear this loved sound. okay. it is better. i think that that can help a lot i described seeing this and somali. that was teaching all of that. the somali women would go to this new school. and then they will come back all wearing tin ceiling. seeing all of that. all of that. so come out for me, i said, i
opted described people. that is what existed with the culture and religion. having this interpretation. and also somali woman wearing all of this was a whole new thing for me. it was hard for me. somalia and i, i often tell people, the somalia i knew, it is really necessary. i never went back to that somali i do want to go back and kind of go to the desert. the séance. i want to touch the world that i
left speared in this sense, this sense of wanting closure. that is what i find myself. really longing for this closure. this closure may not come easily somalia is now harmed. even me gaining attention, it comes to do really well. things are really happening. i do not know if i want all of these people knowing me because i want to go back and have that closure. thank you so much. that was coming from you. [laughter] >> it is not that. i do not know what it is speared for me, when i am talking, if i
hear any kind of sound, my talk freezes speared i don't know. we all have little things that work for us and don't work for us. for me, i found that. it is just the way that i am. thank you so much. when i talk to you on the phone, why am i hearing this sound. now i realize what was going on. thank you so much. >> sure. glad you could figure it out. >> thank you so much. >> i will ask you a question next. have you been able to go back to congo? do you want to describe out for us and whether you have been able to go back?
getting everything out. i can do whatever i want. i see that everybody in the refugee camp is given -- can you imagine how you can survive on that? when i go back, my refugee, they say, can you please tell us about this. tell us about new york city. i tell them, that is what makes me so sad to see. 100,000 and refugee.
international students. it also gave a lot. it is amazing to be back home. >> have you been able to bring attention to the issue of those statements, have you ever been able to get any traction around, i don't know what the solution, is it safe for them to return to congo or no? >> it is not safe. the refugee camp. because of the dominance, they decided not to get the money. the $7 for everybody. now becoming a refugee camp.
another refugee camp. including my sister speared so, they attract work. they are basing a restaurant in minneapolis. also, i responded which is my name. i also want to work with the refugees to see what we can do in the ethnic community. >> it does seemed like all of the talent and the people and the skills are just not being optimized, if they are in a refugee camp. >> and no way to work, i guess. no infrastructure in which they
can flourish economically in which they can grow economically [inaudible] living in america, but mostly, minimum, it took two hours to get there and get that to apply. >> very, very patient. your occupation and complete it. every single day, it took me two hours to get intimate and come back to the camp. it was really risky. actually coming back to the refugee camp.
>> that is an extraordinary part of your story. thank you for telling us that. >> we are running a little bit short on time. i want you to tell them a little bit about the day that your family fled the country. >> the day that we actually left the place we were living was january 15, 1991. i think that they were actually busy. that is the day america gave them to exit. with the consequence of it. there was this feeling that no one really in the world had that issue. that somalia would just fall through the cracks. i remember coming down, the
playset i described. the small area coming down and starting our journey. it felt like all of us without belonging. you see the young and the old, the mother speared suffering on my people's faces. it wasn't ill feeling to watch people just suffer. we do not know where we were going. at the time, even the ones that were later undoing the genocide, everybody, it looks like we had all of the common goal at the time of taking that out. as we come down, looking at my high school which was not long
ago, i was just a young teenager having a crush over the boys. just living life not burdened with any responsibility. here i was carrying my belonging my sister had her babies. it was just suffering all along. asking us to tell our tribe. it was kind of like confusing. my sister was actually trying to teach me. it is a really good set up of the colts. you could be one from your father's side and another from your mother's side. and reliving all of this of molly tribe speared the war is happening. it was a really dangerous time. as we left and then we travel
500 kilometers speared and i was describing how somalia is speared it is beautiful. and white sand speared still, even as i come, i remember one incident. my sister was breast-feeding and i just walk. really singing the song, why we smiling? just i could not believe the somalia i knew, my somali man and woman, what is happening to us? i was still grieving. and then just to end up in the borders of virginia as a young girl who is desperate. that is not so happy to see her. no brothers and sisters in africa. not only that, men were raping
us. i am 16. a prime time for a young girl to be collateral damage for this young world speared and then there were, and they will rape you, to. the somali men, i described one thing to be pregnant with the canyon and child, that is a whole new thing. it was really a scary time. to be honest, nicki, now i am leaving california. i stayed, you would not believe that that is the life that i lived. it is just amazing. of course, i did not even marry
a man from my clan. to the small lace, that is just another way to cause trouble. that was the day that i exited. i don't know. i am reminded of that often when i am sending money to my family. i am sure that they can agree with me that it never finishes speared you i send a, honestly half of our checks are going to family members. it is a lot. it can add up. sometimes, some families, within seven months, it is really, it is a never ending circle. so many people like the young men were saying our suffering. it is hard to eat when so many
people are suffering. whenever i am here, i cook, i can cook very well. i cook for people. and i take the money. i take extra clothing. that is where i can go safely, now. i do not go to somalia yet. i get that money. i have so many people that i am supporting. when i explained to my american friend, what is going on? why are you spending this much money? because you are the one that is naked. you cannot just forget about them. >> i want to ask you that same question. i know you are supporting some people at home. please say a few words. >> thank you so much, nicki.
they are -- not just for them. the organization, i want to create, i want to build at the same time. because we had a lot of. many people back home, they do not want to share. i want to build the center where i think that we have been geared also, five young refugees to college. it is impacting a lot of lives. that is what i'm doing in the hope of a lot of people participating. we can make an impact with this.
>> does it make you frustrated that most americans do not really know that much about africa? >> you know, i can't say. >> is it frustrating to you that they are so uninformed about what is going on? >> i think that that was the most reason i wrote the book. >> the refugee camp will stick around. i wrote the book because of the book. when i started watching the book , i realized they want to share their stories. they are confined somewhere in a refugee camp, they are not to
share. that is how i decided to write a book. to reach out to people. places i have never been. that is why i wrote a book. i want everybody to know what is happening. that human beings are suffering. not only for american people. for everybody. especially those people that are in need. >> i think you may have discussed this a little bit. what is going on in somalia now and is it safe at all for you to
visit? >> when you have those 23 siblings and no siblings are having children, there is always somebody left. very agitated because we are about to elect the special election speared the way that the somalis believe, if you want to take somebody, this is the time. it was said, it is sad, but some people take that time. this is the time because they know it is an opportunistic moment to do this kind of thing. but, yes, with the election coming up, but, you know, it is a place where beauty coexists. in the best explanation that i
can really give you, one minute you could be enjoying yourself and the next you could be running for your life because they blow up the hotel next to you. it is really sad because people often, they are killing. they are killing more somali people and any other people. it is the worst violence to have soon enough, they just come back. it is so sad because they are taking this young displaced man. they feel invisible. that is why they make good war machines. they recruit you. god knows what otherwise they tell them. it is really bad. the people that i have met, as a
somali woman, i see both men and women making a difference and doing some amazing work. i do not want to even think i am in a space where this is happening. with all of this happening, beautiful business still being created. amazing things. hospitals. people are doing amazing things. because i do this, i do not know what it is like to leave. when i hear the story, i am so touched by it. there was a time that i was thinking of going to somalia. i am a planner. i was packing my iv. my normal saline solution. i was packing all of my stuff.
the idea that, i could get sick or i could have a piece thrown away. there will not be a place i can take care of me right away. that was my reality. i think that i was in somalia, i was a teenager when the war happens. what really happened was instability. i was in a place where i was not that frightened about things. it was scary, but i was not like my sister, she estimate sure, she was my older sister. just to make sure it. i could imagine today about my sister. i am a mother today. if a war hits here, i will be in a mess.
yes, it really was a crazy time. yes. >> i want to show you a book cover again. it is very good. i think that the time has come for us to end our time together. thank you so much. it was really wonderful. so good to talk to you. thank you so much for joining us. >> this was really lovely. amazing. thank you so much. it was nice meeting you you to k