Beyond the Sand and Sea: One Family’s Quest for a Country to Call Home

St. Martin’s. Mar. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781250240606. $28.99. SOC SCI
Asad Hussein was born in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp to ethnic Somali parents and never journeyed outside the camp until he was 15 years old. Yet, he felt privileged, as the camp provided quality schooling along with a library funded by aid agencies. He read voraciously and pursued his studies above all other priorities, earning him the nickname “The Professor.” He wrote op-ed pieces for publications, including the New York Times Magazine. Through determination in the face of hopelessness, he was admitted to Princeton’s class of 2022 on a full scholarship. He could now read Michelle Obama’s thesis from the library and shared her opinion that, “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my Blackness than ever before.” Asad was no longer a Somali or a refugee, but a Black man on a primarily white campus. Journalist McCormick met Asad while researching President Trump’s 2017 travel ban and its denial of sanctuary for the residents of Dadaab. Although the book often meanders, the secondary characters serve to poetically emphasize the tragic stories of refugees refused much-needed shelter by capacious legislation.
VERDICT A simultaneously disheartening and uplifting journey for readers interested in social justice, racial politics, and current events.
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