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J.L. Powers J.L. Powers , author of Amina

The daughter of a geologist and a journalist, J.L. (Jessica) Powers spent much of her childhood camping and searching for fossils in the American West. She grew up on the U.S.-Mexico Border and still considers El Paso home, although she now lives in northern California with her family. Powers is the author of two novels, The Confessional (Knopf, 2007) and This Thing Called the Future (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011), and is the editor of a number of books, anthologies and journals, including That Mad Game: Growing Up in a Warzone. She is a regular contributor to The Pirate Tree, a blog on social justice and children’s literature.

Jessica says:

‘I have two master’s degrees in African history and I write about Africa as often as possible. It gives me an excuse to visit the continent where I have met the kindest, most hospitable people in the world, and have seen some really interesting animals to boot, including white lions! Even so, writing about Somalia was a challenge. Amina is set in 2011, in the waning days of the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2012. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled the country after widespread famine in 2011, made worse by the barring of international aid in some areas.

‘I visited many Somali immigrants in the United States while researching this book. The Somali community of San Diego, California, welcomed me into their homes and lives with warmth, offering me thought-provoking conversations, delicious Somali food and friendship. I also met with many Somalis in Seattle, including some wonderful teenagers, for which I am enormously grateful. I looked up words in a handy online Somali-English dictionary. I read portions of the Qur’an and spoke to Muslim women about Somali religious practice and culture. I listened a lot to K’naan, a Somali hip-hop artist — I saw him in concert in 2010, before he got big, and I fell in love with his socially-conscious, Africa-centric music. The research for this book has taken me to some interesting places and allowed me to meet many kind and generous people, not to mention that it allowed me to eat some delicious food and drink some delicious tea!’