When he's not working in the library, staff member Jamal Gabobe is busy writing and publishing.
"I think my passion for writing was born from my cultural background to some extent," says UW Tacoma staff member Jamal Gabobe. "Also, part of me always wanted to explore my need for self-expression."
Born in Somalialand, Gabobe moved with moved his family to Aden, Yemen at the age of five. "My parents were very big on education," he said. "They stressed education as the way to advance yourself."
Gabobe attended a private school in Yemen. "It's interesting, I had to study in English, but my family is Somali so I spoke Somali at home, English at school and, because Yemen is an Arab country, I spoke Arabic if I was in a store or some other public setting.
Gabobe eventually left Yemen for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. "I continued my schooling while also training to work for an oil company," he said. Gabobe soon decided the oil company wasn't a good fit for him. "I really wanted to go to college in the United States," he said.
Fortunately, a close friend of Gabobe’s lived in Ohio, and helped him get connected with Central State University (CSU), a historically black university. Gabobe ultimately decided to leave CSU. “I really wanted to live on one of the coasts,” he said.
Gabobe transferred to UW Seattle, where he earned a master’s and a Ph.D. in comparative literature. “I’ve always been drawn to the academic environment,” he said. “To be close to a library, close to academic lectures, things that are classified as education or artistic.”
Gabobe is currently staff at UW Tacoma library. He has also worked for six years at UW Seattle as an instructional consultant, teaching courses on pedagogy.
When he’s not working in the library, Gabobe is busy writing. “I actually have multiple books published,” he said. “One is called Love and Memory, which is my first book in English. I have a travel piece in an anthology called An Ear to the Ground. I also published a book of poetry in Arabic, Qalb La Yanam or Restless Heart in English.”
Gabobe’s most recent book, The Path of Difference, is a collection of poems. “The book reflects my own life, which has these different pieces, different dimensions to it,” he said. “Because I'm ethnically Somali, but I grew up in Yemen, and then came to the U.S. for college and have been here ever since. So, my life has these different components, different bits of experiences.”
As Gabobe explains it, the poems in Path of Difference explore “being different and experiencing my life as someone who is multicultural and having to negotiate the spaces I move in, and the cultures that I move in and out of. It’s a way to use my literary background like a translation. I’m always in a process of translation, translating one area of my life or one part of the Somali culture to navigate the American culture.”
Gabobe is already busy working on his next writing project, an academic piece centered on nineteenth century travel narratives written by Europeans exploring the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. “Some of what they wrote is hard to stomach,” he said. “Some openly say they should colonize these places and that they’d be helping people by doing so. As a a writer and a scholar you can sift through the provided documentation, find what’s useful and leave the rest.”
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