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Nadifa Mohamed

In 1986, Nadifa Mohamed and her family moved to London from Hargeisa, Somalia where Mohamed had been born in 1981. The move was intended to be temporary but became permanent when civil war broke out in Somalia. Mohamed grew up in Shepherds Bush, South London, studied History and Politics at the University of Oxford and is currently resident in London whilst she works on her third novel.

Her first novel, Black Mamba Boy (2009), was based on her father’s life who was a sailor in the merchant navy. However, it is not biographical account but a fictionalised account of a boy travelling from Yemen to Eritrea in the 1930s and 1940s. In the novel, Jama travels in search of his father who abandoned his son as a young child. The novel won the 2010 Betty Trask Award; it was shortlisted in the same year for the Guardian First Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

In 2013, Mohamed was named as one of the authors of Granta Magazine’s influential, decennial Best of Young British Novelists list. The extract that she published in the edition of the journal celebrating the list (Issue 123) entitled ‘Filsan’ was taken from her second novel which she also published in 2013. This novel, The Orchard of Lost Souls, was set in Somalia in 1987 just as civil war is approaching. It is told from the perspective of three women: Kawsar who is an elderly widow; Dego a nine-year-old orphan; and Filsan who is a young soldier. The lives of these three women intersect in a story that documents many brutalities against these women but also perpetrated by them. 

Mohamed’s literary talent has also been recognised by her inclusion in the Africa39 project to represent Somalia; this project has selected 39 writers under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa identified as typifying and defining the literary trends for their region. (hc)


Al-Shawaf, Rayyan. “Nadifa Mohamed’s New Novel is A Dark, Vivid Tale of Three Somali Women.” The Daily Beast, 5 Oct. 2014.

Arifa Akbar. “Book review: Black Mamba Boy, By Nadifa Mohamed.” The Independent, 15 Jan. Web. 15 July 2015.

Arifa Akbar. “Book review: The Orchard of Lost Souls, By Nadifa Mohamed.” The Independent 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 July 2015.

Forna, Aminatta. “Daughters of Revolution: Nadifa Mohamed’s Orchard of Lost Souls.” The NewYork Times, 21 March 2014.

Jaggi, Maya. “The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed – review: The Betty Trask award winner takes on a complex history of Somalian civil unrest with a focus on women.”  The Guardian 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 July 2015.

Katsoulis, Melissa. “The Orchard of Lost Losts by Nadifa Mohamed.” The Times, 17 August 2013.

Lowdon, Claire. “The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed.” The Sunday Times, 18 August 2013.

Matzke, Christine, Anita Rupprecht, Shane Moran, Supriya Goswami, Rachel Bower, Andrew Hock, Soon Ng, Devindra Kohli, Vijaya John Kohli, Jak Peake, Paul Hardwick, Madeline Clements, Rashi Rohatgi, and Bina Shah. “Families in Flux: Transnational Reconnections across the Horn of Africa and its Diaspora.” Wasafiri 26.3 (2011): 74-93. Taylor & Francis. PDF file.

Matzke, Christine. “Writing a Life into History, Writing Black Mamba Boy: Nadifa Mohamed in Conversation. “Northeast African Studies 13.2 (2013): 207-224. JSTOR. PDF file.

Mohamed, Nadifa. Black Mamba Boy. London: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.

Mohamed, Nadifa. The Orchard of Lost Souls. London: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.

“Nadifa Mohamed: The Granta Podcast, Ep. 71.” Granta, 22 May 2013. Web. 15 July 2015.

Rahim, Sameer. “Nadifa Mohamed’s Somali journey.” The Telegraph, 16 August 2013.

Scholes, Lucy. “Orchard of Lost Souls is a beautiful but violent novel set through the eyes of three Somali women.” The National, 13 September 2013.

Sethi, Anita. “The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed: Review.” The Guardian, 18 August 2013.

Turner, Nick. “Nadifa Mohamed.”  British Council Literature: Writers. 2013. Web. 15 July 2015.


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