Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Surprise interview

I was expecting a 40-something Somali woman who had snagged a grant to help other Somali women who were infertile. When we talked on the phone she suggested we meet at the Afro Deli near Cedar Riverside. I described myself so she would know who I was. "You'll know who I am," she said.

The woman who walked in the door looked barely 20, was in full Muslim garb with sparkly glasses. "Judy?" she said.

It turned out that she had a very common Somali name, that I had Googled who I thought was her, but got the name of the 40 something woman instead. Just another example of how much serendipity can enter into the reporting process, because she turned out to be a great interview.

She was born in Somali, came to the US when she was about two, soon to be the oldest of eight children. She was valedictorian on her suburban high school class of 700. She says it was easier to hold on to her cultural identity growing up a Somali in the suburbs than in the city because her family was the only one from Somalia. She says they all stayed within the enclave of her family. As the only Somali in her class she was special.

The Somali teens who live in subsidized housing in the city think of themselves as victims, she said.

Hmmmmm.   How can that idea fit into my next book, which will definitely be set among Somali women?

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