In This Review

Beyond the Sand and Sea: One Family’s Quest for a Country to Call Home
Beyond the Sand and Sea: One Family’s Quest for a Country to Call Home
By Ty McCormick
288 pp, St. Martin’s Press, 2021

In the massive Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the weather is hot, the landscape is barren, and relief agencies and the authorities alike generally treat the hundreds of thousands of Somali inhabitants, many of whom have lived there for decades, with suspicion, hostility, and abuse. In this environment, McCormick, an editor at this magazine, meets Asad, a young man who is a gifted writer. The book tells the tale of Asad’s struggle to leave the camp for the United States and the story of his sister Maryan, who found her way there a decade earlier. The shift in perspective between the two siblings is a great strength of the book. Asad is what many Americans might think of as the ideal immigrant: he earns the American dream through hard work, intelligence, and stamina, ultimately winning a scholarship and admittance to Princeton University. Maryan’s experience is more typical—and in many ways more revealing about the risks and tradeoffs that even fortunate refugees face. She, too, worked hard and shone at school, but once in the promised land, she struggled with a controlling husband, low-paying jobs, and loneliness. McCormick’s book offers rare insight into the extreme difficulties with which some people live and the amazing ability that some of them show to dream and persist, even when the odds are slim and success presents challenges of its own.