The Private Apartments

The Private Apartments

Written by: Omar, Idman Nur

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Moving, insightful, linked stories about the determination of Somali immigrants — despite duty, discrimination, and an ever-dissolving link to a war-torn homeland.

In the insular rooms of The Private Apartments, a cleaning lady marries her employer’s nephew and then abandons him. A woman accepts an opulent gold bangle from one man yet weds another. A depressed young mother finds unlikely support in her community housing complex. A new bride attends weddings to escape her abusive marriage. A failed nurse is sent to relatives in Dubai after a nervous breakdown. 

Beginning in 1991, the year the Somali Civil War started, these eight articulate stories dwell in the domestic sphere — marriages, friendships, families — in high-rises and low-income neighbourhoods from Rome to Toronto. Resilient, resolved women do what it takes to thrive in new cities, while feeling estranged from a conflict-ridden homeland and grappling with the privilege of having the resources to facilitate such an escape. Recurring characters are delicate threads that eloquently showcase the intricate linkages of human experience and the ways in which Somalis, even as a diaspora, are indelibly connected.

Moving, insightful, linked stories about the determination of Somali immigrants — despite duty, discrimination, and an ever-dissolving link to a war-torn homeland.

In the insular rooms of The Private Apartments, a cleaning lady marries her employer’s nephew and then abandons him. A woman accepts an opulent gold bangle from one man yet weds another. A depressed young mother finds unlikely support in her community housing complex. A new bride attends weddings to escape her abusive marriage. A failed nurse is sent to relatives in Dubai after a nervous breakdown. 

Beginning in 1991, the year the Somali Civil War started, these eight articulate stories dwell in the domestic sphere — marriages, friendships, families — in high-rises and low-income neighbourhoods from Rome to Toronto. Resilient, resolved women do what it takes to thrive in new cities, while feeling estranged from a conflict-ridden homeland and grappling with the privilege of having the resources to facilitate such an escape. Recurring characters are delicate threads that eloquently showcase the intricate linkages of human experience and the ways in which Somalis, even as a diaspora, are indelibly connected.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — May 2, 2023
Specifications 192 pages | 5.5 in x 7 in
Written By

IDMAN NUR OMAR was born in Rome and immigrated to Canada in 1991. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph and an MA in English Literature from Concordia University. She lives in Calgary, where she teaches at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Communication and Liberal Arts Studies Department.

Written By

IDMAN NUR OMAR was born in Rome and immigrated to Canada in 1991. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph and an MA in English Literature from Concordia University. She lives in Calgary, where she teaches at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Communication and Liberal Arts Studies Department.


Idman Nur Omar’s stories have a prismatic and glittering brilliance. The Private Apartments spans the world, tracing the passageways that join one life to another in writing that is wise, clear-eyed, and bold. This astonishing collection heralds a major new talent.

” —Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

The closely observed characters in these stories amount to a poignant work of short fiction that could also be called a novel. Idman Nur Omar’s light touch insightfully connects the start of the 1991 Somali Civil War with the forms of life that grow from uprootedness and struggle into lasting shape elsewhere. This work, spanning continents and two decades, reveals a writer of incisive narrative vulnerability and asks us to read her intimate graces as a storyteller with mature tenderness. The distinctive pleasures of The Private Apartments’ stories are waiting. Why not come in?

” —Canisia Lubrin, author of Code Noir

The Private Apartments absorbed me from the very beginning. Idman Nur Omar is a skilled writer, whose sensitive and stirring depiction of the lives of Somali immigrants calls to mind Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. I cared about these characters. I felt curious about them, gutted for them. I kept reading as much for the crisp, graceful writing and complicated, human portraits as to see what would happen next.

” —Shashi Bhat, author of The Most Precious Substance on Earth

The Private Apartments invites you into the secret lives of Somali women who dare to migrate towards safety, solitude, and sometimes joy. It suggests that even across oceans, behind closed doors, and in every corner of every room, someone, somewhere, is boldly (read: messily) giving life another shot. Idman Nur Omar is cool and delicate on a prose level and generous in her belief that your neighbour is actually your friend, your sibling, your cousin, and the person you come home to. There is almost nothing private about being this intimately connected. I mourn for these women; I feel their guilt and pleasures as much as I celebrate them, as they are, in many strange and uncomfortably daring ways, versions of myself.

” —Téa Mutonji, author of Shut Up You’re Pretty

Idman Nur Omar’s remarkable debut tells stories of Somalis in the diaspora as they navigate complicated relationships, loss, and displacement with determination and wit. Omar writes with sensitivity, insight, and quiet assurance. The voices in these stories are sharp, vulnerable, and, at times, brash. A delightful read!

” —Djamila Ibrahim, author of Things Are Good Now