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My mom is proud of my English. But I want to speak Somali with her

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My mom, my Hooyo, has a special way of teaching you so much about the world and so little about herself.

She tells you the parts of her life that are going to push you to succeed the way she did, without letting you see the struggles she went through.

She often tells me about her education in Somalia. She loved school, and she excelled in it. “My favorite thing to do was study,” she said about her youth. “I don’t remember any test I failed.”

“You never failed a test in school?” I asked her.

“I don’t think so.”

I was only four when my family came to America. My Hooyo thought English was the key to success for her children. What she didn’t expect was for me to give up her mother tongue, Somali, in exchange.

When I was younger I spoke to my Hooyo in Somali and to my brothers and sisters in English. My Hooyo liked watching us get better at speaking English. She was proud.

But as I got older, I wasn’t able to express myself the way I wanted to in Somali. That meant my Hooyo wasn’t able to have the comfort of her homeland within her own home.

For my Hooyo, speaking the Somali language was when she felt most comfortable. She was afraid that my brothers and sisters and I would lose our language — and with it our culture.

So she started pushing all of her children to embrace their culture and their language. We played games where my Hooyo would test our Somali vocabulary with a picture dictionary.

But once I started speaking Somali more often, I realized just how much trouble I had and I gave up on the language.

I was embarrassed about not knowing my language so I pushed my culture away with it. I stopped wanting to answer the phone and talk to my relatives in Somali. I didn’t go inside the mosque or the Somali store.

When my Hooyo realized why I wasn’t going anywhere with her she wanted me to go even more. She told me I would never get better at speaking Somali if I didn’t try.

What she didn’t tell me is that she went through the same thing when she was learning English.

When my Hooyo came to America 13 years ago, she came with seven children and no knowledge of the English language. She spent five years on and off in English classes trying to learn.

She had dreams of going to college, but she thought her children wouldn’t be able to attain success if she was striving for her own as well. My Hooyo worked days and always wanted to spend nights with her children.

“If I study and focus on my studies, you’re going to lose,” she told me. “I have to encourage everybody.”

Learning English got too hard for her sometimes, the way it got hard for me to speak Somali. Her words didn’t always come out right.

“I was look like somebody who never study anything because I didn’t know English,” she said. “It was embarrassing.”

But she never stopped speaking English and never told anyone she couldn’t. She showed me that I didn’t need to be an expert Somali speaker to claim my language, all I needed was the will to keep trying.

My Hooyo stayed in America for her children. She wanted to learn English for her children. I want to speak Somali for my Hooyo.

I want to be able to talk to her in the language that makes her feel most at home. Hopefully one day I’ll feel just as at home with Somali as my Hooyo does.

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Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.

The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.

The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.

Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.

By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.

The sisters attended high school in Staunton.

The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”

The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.

“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”

Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in Norway.

Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.

Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.

“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”

His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.

When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”

It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.

“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.

“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”

Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.

When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.

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