Review: Fairytales For Lost Children by Diriye Osman

When we discuss Queer literature in the book blogging community, we seldom discuss non-western narratives. There are many reasons why we don’t. It could be because it’s easier to relate to the stories of our own communities and cultures rather than foreign ones. Or it could simply be because non-western stories are difficult to find or aren’t being written at the same rate as western ones, so we just aren’t aware of them. Whatever the reason, I have noticed this glaring omission in the book blogging community and in my own reading. So naturally, I sought books to fill the gaps.

The only LGBT narratives I’ve read that aren’t set in North America or Europe are Under The Udala Trees and Guapa. That’s it. For the entirety of my life as a reader. Fortunately, Darkowaa and Osondu both recommended Fairy Tales for Lost Children in their blogs with glowing reviews. I knew I had to read this collection of short stories because it had never crossed my mind that I should read a story about gay, lesbian, and transgender Somalis living in Africa and abroad. This is how I operate — when I see a gap in my reading history, I immediately look for books to fill it. I understand that not everyone thinks this way about their reading habits, but for me it has proven to be immensely rewarding and I have discovered some of my favorite stories and authors. I highly recommend it!

Fairytales for Lost Children

This short story collection is only 150 pages, but the stories are powerful, memorable, and warrant a reread once you’re done. Each one is about gay, lesbian, or transgender Somalis living in Somalia, Kenya, or England. Somalia has had a troubled history of political turmoil, violence, and famine, so many of people we follow are refugees trying to build a life outside of their homeland. Many of the stories are tragic, but some are hopeful, and all of them are honest and relevant. 

I’ll briefly discuss a few of my favorites and couple them with the gorgeous illustration paired with each story. 

Pic 4If I Were A Dance – A lyrical story about two dancers, Anas and Narciso, a couple who had a painful falling out but must perform one last time, together, before exiting each other’s lives completely. Diriye Osman makes several references to music in this story, specifically from Meshell Ndegeocello’s music, so I recommend finding these songs on YouTube and playing them as Anas and Narciso perform for extra immersion. The performance was a very personal reenactment of the beginning and end of their relationship, which is a very strange subject for a dance routine. But it works beautifully and Anas uses this opportunity to rewrite the way their story ended.

 

silence

Your Silence Will Not Protect You – This one is about a young man named Diriye, who was his parent’s favored child and was allowed to do anything he wanted. Upon coming out as gay, however, his parents reject and disown him. In London, Diriye tries to carve a life for himself, but is deeply depressed and in pain from the fallout of the rejection. The story as a whole is not a happy or optimistic, but ends on a strong note by asserting the message to stand your ground and love yourself even when your community refuses to acknowledge your humanity. Given that the author’s first name is also Diriye, I take that to mean that this story was autobiographical in nature, which makes it even more powerful and personal.


the other womanThe Other (Wo)Man
– 
The longest story in the collection and also the most interesting, anxiety-inducing, and nuanced of them all. It follows Yassin, a twenty-two year old Somali living in London seeking the intimacy of dating and relationships. He meets Jude, a married British-Jamaican man, on a gay dating app and decides to meet him and go on a date. Over time, Yassin learns that Jude is attracted to men who wear women’s clothes and this freaks him out! I immediately took Yassin’s side. He was troubled by Jude fetishizing men in drag and effeminacy because he thought Jude wanted to see him as a woman. But sexuality is more complex than that and I appreciated how this story used Yassin’s knee-jerk rejection of the idea to teach him about his developing sexual identity. Some people may take issue with this story in particular, but it was my personal favorite because it was bold and provided a nuanced depiction of one man’s evolving sexual identity. 

The other 8 stories are also excellent and written with honesty and respect for the communities they represent. If you regularly read LGBT fiction, I urge to read Fairytales for Lost Children with an open mind and a willingness to explore nontraditional and non-western narratives. Also, please note that this collection includes stories that are sexually explicit. I personally thought the explicit content was relevant and realistic, given the subject matter of some of the stories, but others may not agree. The fact that these stories, written by a gay Somali, exist is a bold and powerful statement, so it is important to read them without judgment and allow the voices of the men and women who are traditionally silenced to ring loudly and fearlessly. 

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Fairytales for Lost Children



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46 thoughts on “Review: Fairytales For Lost Children by Diriye Osman

  1. I remember you sharing some of these illustrations on Twitter😊 This sounds like a very potent collection. There seems to a lot of complexity, in a good way.

    1. Before 2016 I hardly ever read any short stories, but I challenge myself to read more and it’s been extremely rewarding. I’ve found some great collections. You should try to read some, there are so many good ones out there!

        1. If you’re a fan of fun, swoony romance YA then you should read “My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories.” I’ve heard so many good thins about them.

          Chimamanda Adichie also has a short story collection called “The Thing Around Your Neck.” Sandra Cisneros has “Woman Hollering Creek.” There are plenty of good ones. You just have to be willing to read them, but it’s hard to get over the initial aversion to them, at least it was for me. lol

  2. I’ve been meaning to find some LGBT fiction from the Indian subcontinent (if it exists!). I’ll let you know if I do!

      1. There’s this one called “Swimming in the Monsoon Sea” by Shyram Selvadurai. I’ve had it on my Amazon list for a while now. Will get it once I get the chance. I love the cover too. Just FYI 🙂

        1. I wholeheartedly recommend Shyam Selvadurai’s books. This is probably a good place to start, as it has many of his key themes in it, but I started with Funny Boy, which was one of my favourite books that reading year. Hungry Ghosts has a character who works in a bookstore, which I always love finding in stories, and it’s his most recent novel: also very good.

  3. Oh, thanks for the rec! Like some of the other commenters, I don’t read a ton of short stories. But I’m with you in having read/heard of very few LGBT stories set outside of North America and Europe, and I def want to rectify that.

  4. I’ve read a lot of non-western books, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a non-western LGBT book. The only non-western LGBT book I’ve ever heard of is Under the Udala Trees. I love short stories, so I’ll have to look into this one.

    1. You’re one of the few people in the blogosphere I’ve ever heard say that she loves short stories! hah, I have grown to love them over time. 🙂
      Under the Udala Trees is so great. I hope more people keep discovering it and reading it.

  5. The last sentence of your review put a lump in my throat. I’ll take that as a sign to add this to my list. 🙂
    The second story sounds so sad. I hope, if it is autobiographical, that it has a good ending.

    1. I like to think that I’m the favored child in my family, but I can’t be sure! My mom is so good at being objective in the love she gives out to her children. When I came out to her, she took it in the best way I could have imagined. She’s a traditional Catholic woman and she accepted me immediately. I am so blessed. <3 Others aren't so lucky and it breaks my heart to hear this.

  6. Fantastic review, Naz. Makes me want to rush out and find this book! And I love that included music to enrich the reading experience – a great idea. We sometimes forget that the atmosphere in which we read a story can really affect the way we perceive it.

  7. I definitely agree… this is a hole in my reading and personal book collection. Part of it is accessibility and I think part of it is on me seeking and supporting. I am getting better and I really look forward to reading this collection. Great review!

    1. I definitely had to seek this one out books like these. You’re not going to find them in most bookstores and most bloggers aren’t going to talk about a book like this, so we have to consciously seek out these stories. I hope you enjoy the book too, Brendon! 😀

  8. “This is how I operate — when I see a gap in my reading history, I immediately look for books to fill it.” And, thus, a TBR list with thousands and thousands of titles begins… *grins* But that’s a nice “problem” to have. I’m looking forward to reading about more of your discoveries!

    1. Yes, my TBR is humongous but it’s also a wonderful feeling!
      I will be making reading lists with the books I discover for a long time. There are so many kinds of books that aren’t typically explored in the book blogging community, and I want to explore them!

  9. I can say that I haven’t read any LGBT novel with the purpose of reading one. I’ve come across one novel where the protagonist was gay, but the story wasn’t around that idea though. I have to say that Your Silence Will Not Protect You sounds like a devastating short story, but something to learn from. Great review!

    – Lashaan

    1. There are many people who don’t seek out LGBT fiction, and that’s fine. I understand why.
      But if Queer people want to read fiction that represents them more personally, they must seek LGBT fiction out consciously or they’re not likely to come across one easily.

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