Nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award: Translation and the ReLit Awards
As a small child, Askia was forced, along with his family, to wander the African desert as if under a curse. First driven from their home by drought and hunger, they were then kept from the villages they passed through by the fear and suspicion of others, who did not want to see their "dirty feet" stay for too long.
Years later, it seems Askia is destined to relive his family’s curse night after night as he roams the streets of Paris in his taxi. One evening, he picks up Olia, a young woman who claims to recognize his face, telling him that his features are similar to those of a man she photographed years ago. Had it been his father, the enigmatic Sidi Ben Sylla Mohammed? The father who migrated north long before he did; the father he has so often dreamt about; the father whom he aches to meet?
With Olia’s help, Askia sets out to retrace Sidi’s steps. But before he can embark on this new journey, he must first confront his violent past. A brutal, indelibly powerful look at the harrowing, often violent lives of those who are condemned to wander.
Awumey adorns his book with short, vivid phrases that, at times, read like poems ... reveal[ing] ...
Reading [Dirty Feet] one inevitably thinks of the recent mass flight of starving Somalis to Kenya . . . intriguing . . .
Haunting and beautiful . . . Dirty Feet explores the nature of violence, confrontation and grants a powerful insight into the lives of those denounced to wander.
The writing is beautiful [and] leaves room for the imagination.
... Awumey’s spare style and stark vision disrupts our complacent vision of the world we know; he challenges our belief in the universal progress of race relations ... Dirty Feet is rich in wisdom and allusion ...