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Where I Belong

by Gillian Cross

Published by U.S. edition: Holiday House, 2011
245 pages
ISBN: trade 978𢠪234-23323

Age 13 and older

Contemporary Somalia is the subject of this ambitious novel told in the alternating voices of three teens: Abdi, a European-born Somali living in London; Khadija, a Somali-born refugee who has come to London illegally and is posing as Abdi抯 sister; and Freya, the London-born daughter of a high-power fashion designer. Freya抯 mother, top-flight fashion designer Sandy Dexter, is inspired by Somalia for her latest collection. She spots Khadija in the Somali community in London and immediately pegs her as the key to the collection抯 debut梥he will be the secret model, Quarsoon (揟he Hidden One). The London couture industry contrasts starkly with snippets of Khadija抯 family抯 life back in Somalia, harshly impacted by drought and political turmoil. When Khadija抯 brother in Somalia is kidnapped and held for $10,000 ransom, it seems to be tied to her emerging role as Sandy Dexter抯 newest discovery. But no one is supposed to know the closely held secret of Khadija抯 modeling, although a Somali friend of the family who runs the internet caf where Khadija sends email home is offering to pose as Khadija抯 father in negotiations with Sandy. Events reach a climax when Sandy insists on debuting her new line in a Somalia village in a show that will be web-streamed to London for fashion week. While Abdi is making the first visit to his cultural homeland, Freya is disillusioned by her mother抯 seeming exploitation of the Somali people, and Khadija can think only of her brother抯 safety. The author casts a light on the turmoil in Somalia, set within a broader framework of family connections and intersecting cultures.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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