Igiaba Scego: Adua (2015, Italy)Author: Igiaba Scego
Original title: Adua
Original language:
Number of pages: 192
Published by: Giunti
Release date: 2015
ISBN: 9788809792340
Rights contact: PNLA

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Sharply incisive, the details of Adua’s story blend into a near-cinematic narrative.

About the book

The novel Adua is narrated by a Somalian immigrant living in Italy, who offers us a vantage point on the broader historical backdrop of the colonial and postcolonial subjugation of the African continent.

Igiaba Scego’s scenes are cinematic, as dictated by one of the book’s primary motifs – the exploitation of (black) women in the film industry. The author deepens and broadens her theme by structuring the novel as a collage of three narrative voices, which tell the stories of African migrants in Italy through three historical periods, and by interweaving these diverse stories with the technique of narrative parallelism.

The first story unfolds during the period of Italian fascism in East Africa. As an interpreter for Mussolini’s regime, Zoppe hates himself for being forced to collaborate in his own people’s betrayal. The second story belongs to Adua, who, as a naïve teenager wanting to become a film star, flees Somalia in the 1970s. Her dreams are shattered when the supposed philanthropists who have brought her to Italy exploit her both economically and for their own perverse desires. She ends up humiliated like her father, with similar feelings of self-loathing. As an elderly woman, will she be able to seize hold of her life, will she know how to make her voice heard? The third story is that of Titanic, Adua’s much-younger husband, who survived the journey across the Mediterranean like the numerous other Africans who have come to Europe since 2000, so that his dreams of the promised land, too, could collapse.

The author analyses structures of violence and interrogates diverse systems of power (capitalism, (post)colonialism, patriarchy, racism, the social marginalisation of women, children, migrants, animals). She does this via a seemingly simple narrative and with a great deal of emotional intelligence. Instead of a full stop, she ends with a question: does not the uprising of the exploited and the subjugated, the existential necessity of breaking free of violence, rest on our awareness of our own entanglement in systems of domination, our ability to liberate ourselves from our wounds and gather the courage to face ourselves with love and respect?

Alenka Jovanovski

From reviews

Lucid and forthright ... examines the linked consequences of Italian colonization, instability in 1970s Somalia, and the current refugee crisis in Europe ... an illuminating work appropriate for a wide range of readers.

―Library Journal

Three experiences of blackness in Rome, three generations searching for a way out. Scego, who is Somali-Italian, is an incisive writer on migration, skilled in making the historical personal.

―Toronto Globe and Mail


‘I wanted to dream, dance, fly. I wanted to escape. Italy was everywhere in my life. Italy was kisses, holding hands, passionate embraces. Italy was freedom. And I so hoped it would become my future.’

About the author

Igiaba Scego | Photo by Simona Filippini

Igiaba Scego, born 1974, is an Italian writer, publicist and activist of Somali origin. She studied Comparative Literature and Pedagogy and was awarded her PhD in 2008. Her postdoctoral research activity at Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, addresses cultural dialogue and migration, Italian colonialism and blackness in Italy. She writes for numerous publications about migrant literature and works on anthologies collecting the works of migrant authors. In 2003 she received the Eks&tra Prize for a short story and published her first novel The Nomad Who Adored Alfred Hitchcock. Afterwards, she wrote novels Rhoda (2004), Beyond Babylon (2005), My Home Is Where I Am (2010 – Mondello Prize), Adua (2015) and The Colour Line (2020). Her work is included in higher education study programmes in Europe and the USA, and has been translated into English, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish, Slovenian and Croatian.

Outstanding awards and distinctions

  • 2003 – Eks&tra Prize
  • 2011 – Mondello Prize



  • The Nomad Who Adored Alfred Hitchcock / La nomade che amava Alfred Hitchcock (2003)
  • Rhoda (2004)
  • Beyond Babylon / Oltre Babilonia (2005)
  • My Home Is Where I Am / La mia casa è dove sono (2010)
  • Adua (2015)
  • The Colour Line / La linea del colore (2020)

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