Simbolei Community Assistance Association

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Another Great Book Set in Sudan

As I’m packing and preparing the Simbolei Community Library for shipment from Michigan to Kenya, one of the greatest challenges for me is the temptation to continue to purchase new books. I am trying to cut back on purchases so that I can get the books we already have ready for shipment and I can turn my attention to other moving related tasks that need to be done.

Having gotten that off my chest, I want to follow up on last week’s post about A Rope from the Sky, a recent history of South Sudan, with another Sudan related book in an entirely different genre. Morning in Serra Mattu : A Nubian Ode is a collection of interrelated verse stories that describe the culture, environment and people of Nubia, an ancient civilization and now a region in the country of Sudan. This is a beautiful and intriguing book, the poetry full of delicate and intimate details while overall the poems weave the story of historical and environmental change. Over 100,000 Nubian people in Egypt and Sudan were displaced upon completion of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in 1960 and this event is one of the tragic themes of the stories. But, the history in this book reaches much farther back into the distant past as well as into the present.

Here is an excerpt from the poem With Alawiyya. 

Alawiyya was your sister

one year older

with whom you loved to set out to explore

and together you knew all the roads

and hidden paths and complex secret passageways

of all those neighborhoods


sometimes climbing on roofs of garages

from which height you reached out with a wire

you bent with a hook to pull

tamarinds down toward you

taking in your hands the fruit


and the British were quite crazy with such sun

to grow every kind of citrus that they could


to water with each moon

they flooded the gardens from the Nile

the orchard then became a lake

from With Alawiyya in Morning in Serra Mattu

With books we can travel the world, finding our common feelings with people from other times and places but also learning to see the world through another person’s experiences.  As we prepare to move the Simbolei Community Library into its new home , I find books to be both soothing and inspiring. I’ll continue to share treasures for adults and children, both books specifically related to Africa and books related to topics such as development and education so that you can share the journey of discovery with us. Happy reading!


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The Great Rift Valley is part of a huge tectonic rift in the earth's crust that also created the Red Sea and the valley of the Jordan River.

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