Home Is Not A Country — Safia Elhillo

How do you relate to the country of your birth, if it’s a place you’ve never visited? And when does nostalgia go from being something beautiful to an illness that keeps you from living in the present moment?

Our guest today, Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese American poet whose strikingly beautiful debut novel Home Is Not a Country is deeply informed by these questions of belonging, nostalgia, and identity.

Her book is written entirely in poetic verse and follows the story of Nima, a 15-year-old girl who longs to escape the racism and bullying she experiences daily in America and become someone else.

Safia shares how she was first drawn to poetry because of the sense of community she saw amongst poets at open mic night and how she steadily honed her craft. We discuss the challenges immigrant parents face in imparting their culture to their children and how nostalgia can deprive you of appreciating the richness of your present circumstances.

Join us today for an insightful and meaningful conversation on what it means to straddle two worlds and the power of community.

• Introducing today’s guest Safia Elhillo
• Safia shares what she was like as a child and how she discovered her talent for poetry.
• Safia’s experiences moving around a lot as a child and insights into her cultural background.
• How Safia was first drawn to the sense of community among the poets she saw.
• Hear about Home Is Not a Country’s main character Nima and how Safia created her.
• How nostalgia and its effects inform the topic of Safia’s book.
• How Nima is driven by a desire to return to the country her parents came from.
• Nima’s experiences of racism, rejection, and loneliness in the US.
• The extent to which Home Is Not a Country is autobiographical.
• How Home Is Not a Country explores the confusion of growing up in America while straddling two cultures.
• Safia shares her experiences of belonging and how her perspective has changed.
• The significance of a chosen community.
• Safia explains the concept of nostalgia as an illness.
• The challenges that immigrant parents face in raising their children to care about a culture they are not immersed in.
• The use of magical realism and Islamic mythology in Home Is Not a Country.
• The logistical challenges Safia faced in using time travel in her novel.
• How Safia chose to write the entire novel in poetic verse.
• Why it’s important to allow yourself to write a bad first draft.
• The value of community and outside input for revising your work.

References

Safia Elhillo on Twitter - https://twitter.com/mafiasafia
Safia Elhillo on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/safiamafia/
Home Is Not a Country - https://www.amazon.com/Home-Not-Country-Safia-Elhillo/dp/0593177053
Break the Good Girl Myth - https://majomolfino.com/book
Majo Molfino - https://majomolfino.com/
HEROINE (Podcast) - https://majomolfino.com/podcast

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