August 5, 2021

Shugri Said Salh

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes writer SHUGRI SAID SALH for a discussion of her debut memoir, The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert. She will be joined in conversation by ABDI NOR IFTIN, radio broadcaster and author of the acclaimed memoir, Call Me American.


When Shugri Said Salh was six years old, she was sent to live with her nomadic grandmother in the desert, away from the city of Galkayo. Leaving behind her house, her parents, her father’s multiple wives, and her many siblings, she would become the last of her family to learn a once-common way of life. The desert held many risks, from drought and hunger to the threat of predators, but it also held beauty, innovation, and centuries of tradition. Shugri grew to love the freedom of roaming with her goats and the feeling of community in learning the courtship rituals, cooking songs, and poems of her people. She was even proud to face the rite of passage that all “respectable” girls undergo in Somalia, a brutal female circumcision.

In time, Shugri would return to live with her siblings in the city. Ultimately, the family was forced to flee as refugees in the face of a civil war—first to Kenya, then to Canada, and finally to the United States. There, Shugri would again find herself a nomad in a strange land, learning to navigate everything from escalators to homeless shelters to, ultimately, marriage, parenthood, and nursing school. And she would approach each step of her journey with resilience and a liveliness that is all her own.

At once dramatic and witty, The Last Nomad tells a story of tradition, change, and hope.

About Author(s)

Shugri Said Salh was born in the desert of Somalia in 1974 and spent her early years living as a nomad. In 1992, she emigrated to North America after the civil war broke out in her home country. Although this is her first book, Shugri has been storytelling since she could talk. From her grandmother and the nomadic community in which she was raised, she heard stories and learned of their power to entertain, teach, and transform. When she isn't writing or telling stories, she works as an infusion nurse.

When the radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, Somalian writer Abdi Nor Iftin began sending secret dispatches from Somalia to NPR, gaining a worldwide following through his broadcasts. His work has been featured on the BBC and This American Life, and in The Washington Post. His memoir, Call Me American, was published in June 2018. He currently lives in Portland, Maine, where he works as an interpreter for Somali immigrants.