5Q Interview: Ubah Cristina Ali Farah (Italy) 2017 IWP Resident

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down (sometimes remotely) with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are talking with Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, a fiction writer, poet, playwright and translator from Italy.

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

The project I have in mind is to write a pièce inspired by the true life-story of Saado Cali an eminent Somali singer, song-writer and political activist of American citizenship murdered in Mogadishu in July 2014 by unknown assailants. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. In my writing and performance works, I’m keen on using songs, broadcast, archive materials, related both to the period Saado Cali spent in Mogadishu before the outbreak of the civil war, also highlighting the connexion between Somalia and Italy, and to her 20 years life experience in Minnesota, within the Somali American community.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

I can’t say I have a specific routine but when I start writing I completely lose track of time, even bodily needs (like eating for instance) seem annoying distractions to me. I think that this has to do with me being a mother from a very young age. You can be rarely on your own and you learn to adjust to the lack of time.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I love reading as all the writers do. In fact reading is our prior training. I’ve been reading the IWP authors samples, Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, Alice Munro’s The love of a good woman for pleasure.

4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

Storytelling has always fascinated me. I was raised in a country of great raconteurs. Each story could stretch on forever, each detail giving rise to another story. If I had to define my work, I would say that it is nothing less than an attempt to orchestrate and give back the stories that were told to me.

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I was born in Verona of an Italian mother and a Somali father. I grew up in Mogadishu and I lived there until 1991 when the civil war broke out there. Then I lived for a couple of years in Pécs (Hungary) before moving to Italy. Now I am based in Brussels. So – you see  it is very complicated for me to define what “home” is. I have reflected on it long and hard and I came up with the belief that the thing that really anchors you to a place is the relationships that you have. Wherever you are, if you manage to keep these bonds and feelings alive – if they're thriving, you can be anywhere. It’s the relationships that define us. Basically, I feel at home when these bonds are solid and still in place.

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Thank you Ubah!

Ubah will be reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore this Sunday, Sept 17 at 4pm.