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Biography & Autobiography African American & Black

Son of Elsewhere

A Memoir in Pieces

by (author) Elamin Abdelmahmoud

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
May 2022
African American & Black, Discrimination & Race Relations, Essays
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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From one of the most beloved media personalities of his generation comes a one-of-a-kind reflection on Blackness, faith, language, pop culture, and the challenges and rewards of finding your way in the world.

Professional wrestling super fandom, Ontario's endlessly unfurling 401 highway, late nights at the convenience store listening to heavy metal—for writer and podcast host Elamin Abdelmahmoud, these are the building blocks of a life. Son of Elsewhere charts that life in wise, funny, and moving reflections on the many threads that weave together into an identity.

Arriving in Canada at age 12 from Sudan, Elamin's teenage years were spent trying on new ways of being in the world, new ways of relating to his almost universally white peers. His is a story of yearning to belong in a time and place where expectation and assumptions around race, faith, language, and origin make such belonging extremely difficult, but it's also a story of the surprising and unexpected ways in which connection and acceptance can be found.

In this extraordinary debut collection, the process of growing—of trying, failing, and trying again to fit in—is cast against the backdrop of the memory of life in a different time, and different place—a Khartoum being bombed by the United States, a nation seeking to define and understand itself against global powers of infinite reach.

Taken together, these essays explore how we pick and choose from our experience and environment to help us in the ongoing project of defining who we are—how, for instance, the example of Mo Salah, the profound grief practices of Islam, the nerdy charm of The O.C.'s Seth Cohen, and the long shadow of colonialism can cohere into a new and powerful whole.

With the perfect balance of relatable humor and intellectual ferocity, Son of Elsewhere confronts what we know about ourselves, and most important, what we’re still learning.

About the author

Contributor Notes

ELAMIN ABDELMAHMOUD is a culture writer for BuzzFeed News and host of CBC’s pop culture show Pop Chat. He was a founding co-host of the CBC Politics podcast Party Lines, and he is a contributor to The National’s At Issue panel. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Globe and Mail, and others. When he gets a chance, he writes bad tweets.

Editorial Reviews

“This book is full of confessions like these: funny and frank, delivered in such a generous spirit that almost any reader[…]is bound to be won over[…]”The New York Times
“What makes Son of Elsewhere so pleasurable, outside of Abdelmahmoud’s far-reaching intelligence, deft storytelling and ability to make you laugh moments after bringing a lump to your throat, is its graceful structure. . . . he makes a quiet experience of passage into something concrete and knowable, divided into fast-moving lanes to yet another elsewhere.” —Globe and Mail
Son of Elsewhere abounds in such perceptively written, funny-slash-poignant anecdotes. . . . It’s all written in a breezy, easygoing tone, but don’t let that fool you: this is a thoughtful, often profound book.” —Toronto Star
“It is astounding how accurately and honestly Elamin Abdelmahmoud manages to map the strange territory between cultures that so many migrants call home. The interlinked essays in this collection, which filter the immigrant experience through everything from country music to professional-wrestling fan fiction, manage to pull off a rare trick—at once sincere, ironic, hilarious, and profound. Son of Elsewhere is the sort of book that can only come from a writer both incisive and open-hearted. Abdelmahmoud, to our great fortune, is both.”—Omar El Akkad, Scotiabank Giller Prize‒winning author of What Strange Paradise and American War

Son Of Elsewhere is a memoir that is immense in its desire to give, and not just of its writer's life and history. But it is also a rich offering of image, of music, of place. I am thankful for the touchable nature of this story, the movements within the book, and how visual this journey is.”—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance

“Elamin Abdelmahmoud’s Son of Elsewhere achieves what all nonfiction work should: a unique type of universality. His writing feels like a magic trick: every page is charming, funny, and yet painful, a collection that presses on your most tender feelings like a bruise yet to heal. Son of Elsewhere is a salve.”—Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Son of Elsewhere is marvelous and wise and fascinating. An introspective rumination on identity, belonging, and otherness that is breezily told but deeply felt. Like a conversation with one of your smartest friends, Elamin Abdelmahmoud offers a unique perspective that feels both familiar and challenging. It’s a privilege to read.”—R. Eric Thomas, national bestselling author of Here for It, or How to Save You Soul in America

“Elamin Abdelmahmoud is full of light and wisdom, his book is no different. With humour and vulnerability, he writes about the struggle to find himself in Canada while maintaining a connection to his roots in Sudan. I laughed out loud even as my heart ached for him, and I dogeared dozens of pages where his sentences were so perfect that I will return to them again and again. Son of Elsewhere is witty and tender and the story of a lovely writer discovering himself; a person I am so glad to call a friend.”—Rosemary Barton, host of CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live

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