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Somalis in Minnesota

Somalis in Minnesota

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The People of Minnesota Series

Author Ahmed I. Yusuf

Minnesota Historical Society Press (December 15, 2012)

An enlightening introduction to Minnesota's Somalis, who have adjusted to a new climate, new language, and new culture in a region wholly different from their homeland.


The story of Somalis in Minnesota begins with three words: sahan, war, and martisoor. Driven from their homeland by civil war and famine, one group of Somali sahan, pioneers, discovered well-paying jobs in the city of Marshall, Minnesota. Soon the war, news, traveled that not only was employment available but the people in this northern state, so different in climate from their African homeland, were generous in martisoor, hospitality, just like the Somali people themselves.

The diaspora began in 1992, and today more than fifty thousand Somalis live in Minnesota, the most of any state. Many have made their lives in small towns and rural areas, and many more have settled in Minneapolis, earning this city the nickname “Little Somalia” or “Little Mogadishu.” Amiable guide Ahmed Yusuf introduces readers to these varied communities, exploring economic and political life, religious and cultural practices, and successes in education and health care. he also tackles the controversial topics that command newspaper headlines: alleged links to terrorist organizations and the recruitment of young Somali men to fight in the civil war back home. This newest addition to the people of Minnesota series captures the story of the state’s most recent immigrant group at a pivotal time in its history.

Also of interest:
Soo Fariista / Come Sit Down: A Somali American Cookbook

Author information

After fleeing Somalia, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf lived in several states but has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 1997. He did not speak English when he arrived, he was a high-school dropout, and he was not sure what his actual age was. Today he has two college degrees and is the author of Somalis in Minnesota. His short stories in English have been published in Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies and in Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America. His work also appears in Gororkii Yimi (The Vulture Has Landed), a journal of short stories in Somali. He wrote the article Somali Poetry in Minnesota ​for MNopedia, the free online encyclopedia developed by MNHS, and ​has been an invaluable part of the recent MNHS Somalis In Minnesota Oral History Project, Ahmed interviewed 25 individuals about their lives and experiences. ​ ​In February 2018, The History Theatre of St. Paul, Minnesota will produce​d​ his play, “A Crack in the Sky,” a memoir about how Yusuf found inspiration in Maya Angelou and Malcolm X during his early days as an immigrant to the U.S.​ ​His book Lion’s Binding Oath, a collection of short stories, will be released in June 2018.

Reviews and news

In the Media:

Foreign Policy's "Around the World in 40 Books"

KARE11 Interview

KARE11 Segment on Somali Minnesotans

Minnesota Public Radio

Minneapolis Star Tribune


Twin Cities Daily Planet

Short Excerpt from book

Related resources

MNopedia articles: Somali and Somali American Experiences in Minnesota, Somali Poetry in Minnesota, Somali Museum of Minnesota, and Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota

Somalis in Minnesota Oral History Project

Somali Skyline Tower Oral History Project

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 92 pages
  • 50 b&w photos, 1 map, notes, index, 2 tables, suggested reading
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873518673

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