Fans of Sofia Samatar are set to see a new side of the sci-fi author. Her memoir titled The White Mosque will be published by Catapult later in the year on October 25.
Samatar retraces the steps of a group of German-speaking mennonites who left Russia for central Asia about a hundred years ago. The journey takes her through present day Uzbekistan and gives her the space to think about what it was like for this group of men and women, who ended up founding a village called The White Mosque. It turns out that this story about a mennonite community hits close to home for Samatar, whose mother, a Swiss-German mennonite, married her father a Somali scholar and a muslim in Mogadishu in the 1970s. In writing about this pilgrimage, Samatar opens up about what it was like growing up a mennonite of color in the US with parents from two different cultural and religious backgrounds. Sounds like a great story, as well as an unforgettable adventure.
The publisher’s note explains further:
A secular pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, The White Mosque traces the porous and ever-expanding borders of identity, asking: How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of the tissue of life, with its weird incidents, buried archives, and startling connections, does a person construct a self?
Samatar is the author of fantasy favorites such as Strangers in Olondria and The Winged Histories, in addition to short story collections. She has won top sci-fi/fantasy awards like The Nebula Award and the British Fantasy Awards. She is currently a literature professor at James Madison University.
Ethiopian novelist Maaza Mengiste praises the “electrifying beauty” of Samatar’s writing in the memoir, adding that it holds the “fine balance between lush metaphor, philosophical evocation and unwavering clarity.” For Somali author Diriye Osman, “The White Mosque is the most mesmeric book I’ve read in years.”