Intimate stories of longing and exile by one of our finest contemporary writers.
A lonely housewife fascinated with a famous writer learns to find her own voice in Abu Dhabi; a bus route passing the Christmas lights along Oxford Street is a stark reminder for a female passenger of her brother’s tragic death on the eve of his wedding; and a Scottish man working in a kebab shop and his girlfriend try desperately to reconcile Islam’s place in their fragile relationship.
From the heat of Khartoum at the height of summer to the wintery streets of London, from the concrete high rises in the Gulf to the blustery coast in Aberdeen, this elegant and moving collection vividly evokes the overlapping worlds of Africa, Britain and the Middle East. Beautifully observed and written with empathy, Leila Aboulela’s stories deftly capture the search for home in our fast-changing world.
Winner of the 2018 Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award
“If literary realism attempts to hold a mirror to the world, Leila Aboulela’s Elsewhere, Home is an especially vivid reflection . . . Hers is the first collection I’ve read since James Joyce’s Dubliners that reminded me of the life-changing power of furiously honest realism.”― Porochista Khakpour, New York Times Book Review
“From the title on, Leila Aboulela’s sixth book asks readers to consider what it means to have a home, to leave a home behind, and to make a new one. . . . Aboulela excels at giving equal weight not only to the high-stakes drama of cultural differences, but also more focused concepts, like a schoolgirl’s nearsightedness in “Farida’s Eyes,” or a restaurant worker’s inability to cook rice . . . In the details, we see that these themes aren’t about being Sudanese or British specifically, but the simultaneous sense of belonging and alienation familiar to us all.”―BookBrowse
“[B]eautiful and full of easy dialog and insight . . . Though she tackles many heavier, broader themes in her writing, Aboulela excels most at portraying the nuances of day-to-day life and the pains of missing and returning home.”―Bustle
“Connected by a consistent authenticity, these stories display a virtuosity in building on the most relatable emotional hooks: prewedding nerves, pregnancy stress, or economic anxiety. Aboulela’s remarkable collection offers a strong and sympathetic illumination of the social and spiritual price that migration demands even when it does deliver on an economic promise.”―Booklist (starred review)
“Each story is earnest, engrossing, holding surprising depth for tales so compact. Aboulela confronts and dissects Western and African stereotypes of Islam, Muslims, and immigrants, and beautifully renders the more universal challenge of cultural homelessness.”
―Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“A yearning for home tugs at the souls of Aboulela’s characters in this beautiful and desolate collection…There is so much quiet brilliance [here].”
―Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
“A lovely collection of short stories about love, loneliness and spirituality.”
―Nadiya Hussein, Good Housekeeping
‘’Aboulela manages to conjure up characters as believable and as memorable as any you might expect to encounter in a full-length novel. [She] takes up beyond stereotypes and presents a rich, wide-ranging portrait of immigrant experience.’’
Roger Cox, The Scotsman
‘’Aboulela is an endearing storyteller. There is a kindness in her tempered tone. Read her books to get away from the cliché and sensationalism in mainstream fiction….The collection contains 13 stories about the imagination of home as loss and desire. What makes her stories genius is that she makes the quiet of every day life the space of storytelling.’’
Ainehi Edoro, Brittlepaper
‘Thoughtful, wry, funny … The deceptively quiet tales in Elsewhere, Homeare barbed with tension and conflict. There is the desperate homesickness of immigrants; the complications of love between believers and non-believers …’
“[Aboulela] is one of the best short story writers alive. Publishing her at Granta Magazine and Freeman’s has been one of the highlights of my life as an editor. Since winning the inaugural Caine Prize……,Aboulela has assembled a small body of surpassing grace. This selection of her stories from the past twenty years beautifully conjures the vertigo of homesickness….These are everyday stories observed with unusual sensitivity to the fine grains of hope that live in throwaway gestures. Most of the characters organize their lives around their Muslim faith. Not once do they ask of their characters to perform that faith for us: they just live it.’’
John Freeman, Lithub
“Elsewhere, Home is a rich and poignant reflection of a Britain built – as ever – from multiple perspectives and starting points. Fragile, curious, human voices blend, lose themselves, redefine themselves. The emigrant and immigrant experiences have always been part of our storytelling; these beautifully focused tales of Khartoum, Edinburgh, London, Cairo and beyond are a delight.”
“Leila Aboulela is a maestro. She turns the mundane into exquisite fiction. There are gems here, elegantly cut, polished and framed. Luminous.”
– Fadia Faqir
“Full of elegance, tenderness and the small vulnerabilities that make up our lives.”
– Roma Tearne
The stories in Elsewhere, Home are not autobiographical, but they did spring from my own experience of moving to Britain in my mid-twenties. I arrived in Scotland with a four-year old son and a two weeks old baby. My husband, Nadir, was working offshore on the North Sea oil rigs and it was our first time to live alone, as we had been living with my parents since we got married. So, it was an exciting start, but it wasn’t easy. I was extremely homesick and unable to integrate into the Mums &Toddlers groups and school gate friendships. People around me did not know much about Sudan or about Islam, the two things that made up my identity. This increased my feeling of alienation. For a while I taught Statistics, which is what I had studied, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I felt that I was at a crossroads and started to look for other ways of fitting in. The place which gave me happiness and comfort was the Central Library. Growing up in Sudan with a scarcity of books, I deeply appreciated the luxury of being able to read in abundance and to read for free. Then for the first time ever, I started my hand at writing a short story. Eventually I joined the creative writing workshop at the University of Aberdeen. All the other writers I met at the workshops were welcoming and genuinely interested in my writing. For the first time since arriving in Britain, I started to make friends and to feel that there was some way that I could fit in.
The early 90s, when I first started writing, were the beginning of the forceful anti-Arab and anti-Islam sentiments in the Western media and my presence in Britain made me defensive. I needed to express that life in Khartoum was good, that the people were good, that it was circumstances that had made us all leave rather than choice. I was in a culture and place which asserted every minute that ‘West is Best’, Africa is a mess, only Islam oppresses women and that as an Arab woman I should be grateful that I had escaped. Youth and pride made me resist this description. I remember feeling angry about a newspaper article and sitting down to write a letter to the editor. However, it was fiction that came out instead- those early stories like The Ostrich and Coloured Lights. As my writing progressed and as I adapted to life in Britain, the stories too began to reflect less of the culture shocked protagonist and more of the global citizen. Examples of these are The Circle Line, Expecting to Give and Pages of Fruit.