Son of Elsewhere abounds in such perceptively written, funny-slash-poignant anecdotes...In another, Abdelmahmoud goes to Nashville on a kind of pilgrimage (he has a 'deep romance with the American South' tied to his love of country music, in whose banjo he recognized, right away, the nostalgic strains of African guitar) and is picked up by a Sudanese Uber driver who, affirming a shared characteristic of Southerners and Sudanese, insists Abdelmahmoud stay with him...Abdelmahmoud amiably refuses and 'after the customary twenty-one rounds, he relented and wished me a good time'...If Sudanese music’s heartbeat is the Nile, this book’s is Highway 401 — a comparison that might seem, at first blink, a tad strained, but Abdelmahmoud uses his outsider’s eyes and flair for description to lead us to the poetry...It’s all written in a breezy, easygoing tone, but don’t let that fool you: this is a thoughtful, often profound book.
Buoyant ... This book is full of confessions...funny and frank, delivered in such a generous spirit that almost any reader (even the most dedicated Ja Rule fan) is bound to be won over by Abdelmahmoud’s story of trying to figure out who he was ... Part of what Abdelmahmoud does in this book is make space — for joy and for discovery, but also for anguish and ambivalence ... But range can also present challenges. Too tight a tether can make you feel stifled, while the absence of one can leave you unmoored.
As a long-time fan of his thoughtful and charismatic voice, to see Abdelmahmoud go long, ostensibly making himself the focus of his lavish eye, is a joy...And yet, along with the ups come the doleful insights that are inseparable from a truly vulnerable memoir of this nature...To borrow a phrase from Twitter – on which Abdelmahmoud is a warm and reasonable presence – he is as open about his Ls as he is his Ws...'Elsewhere is not a land, but a sharp edge you inhabit,' he writes...Along that sharp edge, Abdelmahmoud hones his humour, his heart, his abiding love for the country he left behind, as well as the troubled nation in which he came of age...There is an art to being two people at once: seeing oneself through the eyes of the dominant social forces while also seeing through that fiction...Son of Elsewhere is about Elamin being born, over and over again, to awareness...It is where elsewhere has consistently delivered him, whether he wanted it or not.