Little Mother

Little Mother

A Novel
Cristina Ali Farah, translated by Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/20/2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-22296-1
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When civil war erupts in Somalia, cousins Domenica Axad and Barni are separated and forced to flee the country. Barni manages to eke out a living in Rome, where she works as an obstetrician. Domenica wanders Europe in a painful attempt to reunite her broken family and come to terms with her past. After ten years, the two women reunite. When Domenica gives birth to a son, Barni, also known as Little Mother, is at her side. Together with the new baby, Domenica and Barni find their Somali roots and start to heal the pain they have suffered in war and exile. This powerful yet tender novel underscores the strength of women, family, and community, and draws on the tenacious yearning for a homeland that has been denied.

Author Bio

Cristina Ali Farah was born in Verona, Italy, and grew up in Mogadishu. She has published several books of poetry and is active in promoting African literature in Italy.

Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi is Professor of Italian Language and Literature at Smith College.

Victoria Offredi Poletto is Senior Lecturer in Italian Emerita at Smith College.


“In this powerful yet tender novel, two cousins separated and forced to flee Somalia during the civil war reunite to find their Somali roots and heal the pain they have suffered.”

“An accurate and melancholically ironic picture of the Somali diaspora. It shows us the contradictions and difficulties of a people forced to wander the world against their will.”
 — Le Monde Diplomatique

“A kind of album of conversations, face-to-face or on the telephone, of encounters, of exchanges of ideas or feelings, from the most banal to the most profound, all of which serve to delineate the body and soul of the Somali community, which has been traumatized by the dispersal of its people and the tragedies of the civil war at home.”
 — La Repubblica

“The translators and Indiana University Press have done an excellent job in making the novel accessible to non-Somali specialists. . . . Among the rising generation of Somali novelists, Cristina Ali Farah is one of its most subtle thinkers and greatest writers. This novel comes highly recommended. ”
 — Canadian Journal of African Studies

“In this expansive, thoughtful and beautifully crafted work, Ali Farah draws a compelling portrait of Somalia and the Somali diaspora and projects a vision of a Somali people reborn in dignity. ”
 — Kenya Daily Nation

“Little Mother is a complicated book ... but a worthwhile one, a striated thread in 'that tangled mass' that is the Somali diaspora experience.July, 2011”
 — World Literature in Review

“[This] is a powerful story of the strength of women, family, and the tenacious yearning for a homeland that has been denied to them. June 29, 2011”
 — Bookviews

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Table of Contents

Translators’ Preface
1. Prelude – Domenica
2. Barni
3. Taageere
4. Axad
5. Interlude – Taageere
6. Barni
7. Taageere
8. Domenica
9. Epilogue – Barni

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