Earlier this week, we brought news of Reneilwe Malatji’s short story collection Love Interrupted, published by Catalyst Press. But it isn’t the only book that Catalyst Press has released in recent months: in June, they also published another short story collection, The Lion’s Binding Oath by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf.
Although the stories in The Lion’s Binding Oath are all set during or before the Somali Civil War, the book does more than show you war: it shows Somalis living full lives and loving in a time of great distress. In a review, Kirkus Reviews described Yusuf as “unquestionably talented, with a knack for stories focused on injustice and the anxiety of separation, be it over time or distance. […] Informative and direct storytelling from a corner of Africa that’s poorly understood in the West.”
Here is a description of The Lion’s Binding Oath on Amazon:
Religious and ethnic conflict may be the Horn of Africa’s most enduring recent legacy. But beneath its recent history of war and displacement lies human stories―families, clans, lovers, neighbors, and friends, all bound together through common cultural, religious, and historical ties.
The Lion’s Binding Oath, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf’s collection of short stories, introduces readers to the people of Somalia and their struggles: their humanity, faith, identity, friendship, and family bonds, as whispers of war grow louder around them. Through stories that span the years before and during Somali’s civil war, Yusuf weaves together Somalia’s political, social, and religious conflicts with portrayals of the country’s love of poetry, music, and soccer.
Yusuf’s collection is a powerful examination of love and resilience in a country torn apart by war, and written with deep compassion for the lives of its characters.
Ahmed Ismail Yusuf moved from Somalia to Minneapolis, U.S.A. in the late 80s. A non-English speaker at the time, he was a high-school dropout and was unsure of his age. He has since acquired two college degrees. In 2017, The History Theatre of St. Paul, Minnesota produced his short play, “A Crack in the Sky,” a memoir about how he found inspiration in Maya Angelou, whose I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the first book he read, and Muhammad Ali during his early days in the U.S.A. Yusuf is the author of Somalis in Minnesota, a collection of stories published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Kenyan novelist Peter Kimani, author of Dance of the Jakaranda, has praised the collection:
Ahmed Ismail Yusuf’s The Lion’s Binding Oath and Other Stories offers tender memories of his pre-war homeland of Somalia. Even as the drums of war sound to foreground the onset of strife, so do rhythms of the everyday, all captured in hypnotic prose. A timely intervention that affirms all is not lost―in Yusuf’s imagined homeland―and the nation currently under reconstruction.
As has Congolese novelist JJ Bola, author of No Place to Call Home:
Through The Lion’s Binding Oath, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf offers a beautiful insight in Somali culture, tradition and heritage. It is as if you are sat down, by the fire, in the plains, under a blanket of stars, and told story after story until even time loses meaning.
Ahmed Yusuf recently sat for an interview with Isthmus in which he discussed the inspiration behind the book and its title. “Lions have this kind of myth around them. They are actually totally extinct from Somalia now,” he explained. “I was told that lions can have a communication with men. If [a lion] sees a man, and scratches its paw to mark the land three times, the man can follow it with the same. [Then] there is a binding oath between the two, and they will protect each other.”
Read the full interview HERE.
Congratulations to Ahmed Ismail Yusuf.
Buy The Lion’s Binding Oath HERE.