» Somali-American author encourages youth to be true to selves
Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Somali-American author encourages youth to be true to selves

As a young Somali immigrant growing up in Houston, Mariam Mohamed searched libraries in vain for a book that included someone who looked like her.

“I decided that if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them and write my own,” Mohamed said.

About 20 years later, Mohamed shared her story and presented her book, “Ayeeyo’s Golden Rule,” to a group of Somali-American children who are experiencing the issues of isolation and discrimination that she once did.

Mohamed, a fourth-grade teacher who lives in Minneapolis, was brought to Columbus as the inaugural children’s book author-in-residence of the nonprofit Somali Community Access Network, which promotes education and literacy in the Somali community in Columbus (which numbers about 35,000).

Her three-day itinerary included visits to four Columbus elementary schools and a public appearance Thursday afternoon at the Northern Lights branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library on the Northeast Side.

There, about 50 kids and parents listened to Mohamed, 28, discuss the teasing and bullying that she experienced after her family moved to the United States in 1995.
She recalled how, as a 9-year-old, she changed out of her hijab and into shorts and a T-shirt on the bus to school.

“I was sick and tired of kids making fun of me,” Mohamed said. “But that didn’t stop the bullying, and now I regret it. I wished I’d stayed true to who I am.

“And you should be proud of who you are, too.”

Anita Waters, director of development for the Somali Community Access Network, often called SomaliCAN, said Mariam Mohamed’s visit was funded by grants from the Kiwanis Club of Columbus ($1,900) and the Schildhouse Founders Fund ($500).

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