This Is What America Looks Like: Ilhan Omar inspires – and stays fired up

Charles Kaiser in The Guardian:

Few things are more unexpected than a genuinely inspirational memoir by a freshman member of Congress. If you’re looking for the perfect antidote to the perpetual tweetstorm of insanity and hatred from Donald Trump, try this beautiful new book from the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This migrant from Somalia came from a family of teachers and civil servants who lived in a guarded compound. Ilhan had a chauffeur to drive her to school. But all of that disappeared when Somalia was engulfed by civil war. “Bullets flew from one side of the conflict to the other,” Omar writes, “… directly over our house”. The house took direct hits, food became scarce and 350,000 died in the first year of the conflict. Omar’s family was forced to the oceanside town of Kismayo, where she was told that her father and brothers were dead. But the next day she followed what she thought was her father’s voice, “and toward the end of the stretch where everyone was sleeping, there he was … I put my hand on his face, just to make sure he was real. And he was.” Her brothers were alive, too.

They fled to Kenya, where they faced malaria, dysentery and near starvation. The family survived in a refugee camp for 334,000 people, bartering kidney beans for kerosene and batteries for a radio. When she needed entertainment, Omar snuck under the barbed wire to walk to a nearby village, where an enterprising Kenyan charged a few shillings to watch movies on his TV. When six children who were distant relatives lost both their parents, Omar’s family looked after them, Ilhan paying special attention to the baby, Umi. Her father discovered that they could apply through the United Nations to go to Norway, Canada or Sweden. But the US was his first choice.

“Only in America you ultimately become an American,” he said. “Everywhere else we will always feel like a guest.”

More here.