As a child in the 90s, Elamin Abdelmahmoud emigrated along with his parents from Sudan to Canada. In SON OF ELSEWHERE, Elamin authors a series of essays in which he explores growing up in a new country, learning a new language and culture while also finding his own identity along the way.
To be honest, I had no idea who Elamin Abdelmahmoud was prior to picking up this book. That isn’t a knock on him, just that he seemed to exist outside of my periphery. Aside from the heaps of critical acclaim that came along with this release, what drew me in was his wrestling fandom (of course). It’s a gateway drug for me when it comes to a memoir, what can I say?
While his wrestling enthusiasm made up only a small part of his story, I was glad it led me to his memoir in the first place. His recollection of his time in Sudan as well as a breakdown of the country’s wartorn chaos was both fascinating and heartbreaking. It’s amazing sometimes how little I know about the plight of others across the globe. I truly felt the anxiety over his struggle to find his own identity in a culture completely different from what he had known (“I left Khartoum as a popular and charming (and modest) preteen, and I landed in Canada with two new identities: immigrant, and black”) leading to him trying to erase his ethnicity in order to fit in amongst an overwhelmingly white population in Kingston, Ontario.
Elamin is the same age as my brother (and only four years younger than me), so we shared a lot of the same pop-culture fandom. Of course there’s the aforementioned wrestling obsession, but we were both nu-metal fanatics as well as fans of the band Disturbed during their early days (Elamin tells a hilarious story about crashing the band’s Toronto soundcheck) before eventually shifting over to the indie rock explosion of the early 2000s spearheaded by The O.C (a show beloved by my younger brother).
As always when it comes to memoirs, I would prefer a more straightforward approach in terms of linear storytelling. Maybe it’s a thing that only affected me, but I found myself losing track of the timeline on a few occasions. I would have liked a bit more on his current career and what exactly he’s doing now, but I guess the focus was more on his formative years.