Igiaba Scego was born in 1974 in Rome. Her parents left Somalia and came to Italy after Siad Barre’s military junta took over. In 1980s Rome it was not uncommon for the family to experience discrimination. Scego’s father had been a well known politician in Somalia and had held posts such as ambassador and foreign minister. With the coup, the family lost their possessions, positions and connections. Thus Igiaba Scego grew up between a mythical past in which the Scego family was important and well regarded, and the deprivation of the present. She inherited a love of stories from her parents. She devoured books and says herself that literature saved her life: »For me, as the daughter of immigrants who found themselves in a sea of uncertainty, reading was a life preserver. I found my history, myself and, most importantly, Africa in books.« After high school, she studied Literature and Education and then began to publish her own texts.
Her narrative »Salsiccia« was awarded the Premio Exs&tra in 2003. The children’s book »La nomade che amava Alfred Hitchcock« (tr: The Nomad who Loved Hitchcock) followed that same year. In 2004, she published her second novel, »Rhoda«. One of the basic themes of Igiaba Scego’s highly autobiographical work is her double identity as both Somalian and Italian – a relatively new topic in Italy, which has only recently become a destination for immigrants. Writing about this theme also has political significance for her. In Italy, the children of immigrants have no guarantee of achieving Italian citizenship, making them foreigners in their own country or, as Igiaba Scego so pointedly phrases it, Italians with residence permits. Furthermore, her works deal with issues of Italian colonialism, the women’s movement and the 19-year long civil war in Somalia, which comes up in almost all of Scego’s texts. In 2008, she published her most recent novel, »Oltre Babilonia« (tr: Beyond Babylon), in which she once again tells the story of two people with heterogeneous identities. A Roman book dealer with Somalian roots and an Argentinian, also of Somalian descent, meet in Tunis, where they have both come to learn Arabic.
Igiaba Scego also writes for newspapers and magazines such as »L’Unità« and »Internazionale« and is the editor of several anthologies. The author lives in Rome and is currently working on a new novel there.