Egyptian/Sudanese-American writer Kola Boof is the author of seven books published in eight countries. Her autobiography, ’Diary of a Lost Girl’ (Door of Kush, ISBN: 0-9712019-8-6) was this critic's #1 pick on the 10 Best Black Books List for 2006.
Born Naima Bint Harith in Omdurman, Sudan, Kola was adopted by African-Americans, Marvin and Claudine Johnson in 1979 and became an American citizen in 1993. The next year, she returned to North Africa and became a ’paid party girl’ at government functions in Egypt and Libya. She also appeared in more than 40 Arabian films before meeting Osama Bin Laden who reportedly took her as his mistress for six months in 1996.
However, Boof was later kicked out of Morocco for the publication of an inflammatory anti-Arabic, anti-Muslim poetry collection called ’Nile River Woman,’ and for carrying out undercover missions for the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA). In April 2003, a U.N. commissioned human rights report identified her as one of several Sudanese journalists tried in absentia by a court in Khartoum, which issued a fatwa on Kola, sentencing her to beheading after finding her guilty of blasphemy and treason.
Kola Boof The Diary of a Lost Girl Interview with Kam Williams
Kam Williams (KW): Who do you believe is behind the fatwa (death sentence) declared on you?
Kola Boof (KB): I know who it was. It was Gamal Ibraheim and Hasan al-Turabi. Gamal wrote an article threatening me in a London newspaper, and even the portions of it which appeared in the New York Times were calling for me to be assassinated if it's interpreted by anyone with half a brain. In private, Hasan al-Turabi telephoned me and told me that a fatwa was put on my head, and in April 2003, the United Nations had a report saying that a court in Khartoum had ordered me to be beheaded for blasphemy and for being a traitor to Sudan. Theo Van Gogh, who was a friend of mine and was eventually slain by the Muslim fundamentalists told me this’that it was all over Amsterdam for he, Ayann Hirsi Ali and Kola Boof to be killed.
KW: Do you live in fear for your life? Do you look over your shoulder when you walk down the street? Are you in hiding like Salman Rushdie was for so long?
KB: I have much more power and protection than Salman Rushdie, because I'm an American citizen, but yes, I live in terrible fear for my life and for the lives of my children. My whole family has been threatened, my adoptive parents had to sell their house and move out of Washington, D.C. because of death threats caused by my work and activism. I suffer chronic nightmares and can't sleep at night, but what can I do? Everything between Osama and me is now public, and he is alive and indeed could have me killed at any time. His men would love to carry it out’and before that, everything that I was called to say about the Arab world has been said and said loudly. I live on a whim now.
KW: Where do you live?
KB: Well, for security reasons, it's best if people think I live in California, and that's the story I'm sticking to.
KW: While I loved your autobiography, some say it's pure fabrication. How much of it is fiction?
KB: None of it is fiction. My autobiography is one of the truest, most frankly written books ever published in the western hemisphere. Perhaps someone who was mentioned in the book remembers events differently, and in some cases I wasn't allowed to use people's real names, such as my siblings and my children's father, but there's nothing fabricated or untrue in my autobiography. I wrote about my life just as I remembered it. I named names and it's very detailed. Hundreds of Sudanese refugees and people from Africa say that my journey is very similar to theirs.
Kola Boof's long awaited autobiography "Diary of a Lost Girl" is nothing less than magnificent. Many will be spellbound by more than 90 pages detailing her terrifying experience as Osama Bin Laden's former mistress, but the Sudanese-born Novelist/Poet writes even more profoundly about the hardships of being vaginally circumcised, about witnessing her birth parents killed in her presence as a small child, about slavery and Arabism in Sudan, about being adopted and raised in the U.S. by African Americans, about her quest for true love, and in one particularly daring chapter, about her hopes for the future of her sons.
Add to that years of psychiatric treatment, a struggle with manic anger and quite a few daring romances other than Bin Laden and you've got the perfect ingredients for a feature film.
Readers will find themselves fascinated as innocent young Naima Bint Harith tragically becomes the vitriolic complicated temptress Kola. A doomed movie starlet, feminist activist and "kept woman"...who ultimately emerges as the loving mother, outspoken novelist/poet and professional cook that we know today as Kola Boof.
Throughout the book, Kola speaks in a voice so utterly naked, truthful and unpretentious that it's impossible not to fall in love with her.
"Diary of a Lost Girl" is a powerful autobiography that you won't soon
KW: Specifically, people seem to doubt your claim of being Osama bin Laden's mistress. What do you have to say to convince them that you're telling the truth?
KB: What makes me angry’is that it wasn't me who revealed that I had been with Osama Bin Laden. I originally denied being involved with Osama when the London Guardian threatened to ’out’ me. I was terrified to be branded ’Hitler's Girlfriend’ and I refused to cooperate with a story they were doing. Anyone can look that up. But once the United States became aware of it and placed me on a suspected terrorist list and threatened to take away my citizenship’I really didn't have any choice but to admit to it and to tell my side of what happened. But, you know, I laugh when Americans claim that it can't possibly be true, because it just goes to show why the Americans will never capture Osama. They can only think in English. They have this homogenized textbook view of what the Arab world is like. When they speak of Osama, they use cartoonish terms like ’sex slave’ and ’cave.’ As Westerners, they assume Osama would be chasing blondes rather than his preference’women whose vaginas are infibulated.
KW: Peter Bergen, who is widely regarded as a Bin Laden expert, has called your claims delusional and says that Bin Laden has never set foot in Morocco.
KB: Peter Bergen is your typical two-cent Bin Laden groupie’he's made several comments about me that have been proven untrue’for instance his claim that Ayman al Zawahiri was in prison during the time I met him in my book. Peter's dates were a year off; he was proven wrong. His claim that Osama never went to Morocco is nothing less than lunacy’Osama's been to Morocco dozens of times. Peter Bergen's only credibility in this whole affair is that he's a white man and I'm a black woman who looks black, so he is automatically trustworthy and I am automatically a bed wench with an accent. But like I've said in the past’in any mansion it's the whores and the maids who know the most about any man, and Peter Bergen's real problem with me is that he's jealous that he didn't get to be Osama's mistress. The more he attacks me, the more he will look like a fool down the road, and I'm just the bitch to bite his shrimp off and eat it. I'm tired, quite frankly, of being picked on by that smug half-a-shilling, guttersnipe punk from Picadilly. He's a bitch, but I'm a better one.
KW: How do you feel about the mainstream media's handling of your story?
KB: The media has outright lied on me. They reported that I called myself Osama's ’sex slave,’ apparently unaware that sex slaves aren’t allowed to look their master in the eye, write poetry with him or go on hunting excursions with him. They reported that I claimed to have been ’raped repeatedly’ by Osama, which is untrue. They've called me an ’African Priestess.’ And I'm sure you've heard the jokes about my name. The press doesn't like me, because I am a weirdo to them, so they do everything to create their own fictional Kola Boof. I have been completely disrespected, lied on and misrepresented by these cynical know-it-alls who call themselves journalists. They keep calling me the Diana Ross of the publishing industry, whatever that means, and calling me a ’bitch’’but they make me a bitch! They write that I was a ’prostitute’’but I have never in my life been a prostitute. When I was a ’paid party girl’ in Egypt, we were paid to come to the party and be hallway dressing. I met rich men and they became my boyfriends. When I was a kept woman’it was a relationship. For the Sudanese People's Liberation Army [SPLA], it was war tactics. I have never turned a trick in my life, and I just resent the American definitions of ’sex slave’ and ’prostitute’ so much. I was a mistress!
KW: So what was your involvement in the SPLA?
KB: In 1998, I was trained by the SPLA in London how to pretend to be a geologist, I went by the name Katrina Wexler and slept with men at Talisman Oil in Port Colborne, Canada, at Ludin Oil in Sweden, and at China National Petroleum company in Nairobi, Kenya, so that I could attain information that allowed the SPLA to bomb oil fields in South Sudan, specifically Operation Miuokda a few years later, where they bombed oil refineries using my blueprint. In 2004, I went to Israel and gave a speech that resulted in guns and ammunition being given to the South Sudanese rebels, specifically Commanders Athol's and Yaka's armies. I have never received full credit from the SPLA, because the men are very sexist and feel that I'm acting out of place, bringing too much attention to myself--but for the funeral of our leader John Garang, they had me write the poem "Chol Apieth" to eulogize him, and that was their way of acknowledging my contributions.
KW: Why are you so anti-Muslim and so pro-Israel?
KB: I'm not so Pro-Israel’I'm Pro-Africa. Africa's greatest enemy of all time is the Arab Muslim Empire’they enslaved us for one thousand years and have committed untold atrocities and genocides against the East African people. Though the white man is a kind of Satan, and though the black man is Satan for selling his own children into bondage and assassinating the image of his own mother, because he himself wants to be white’I can assure you that Africa has known no greater Satan than the twins, Arab and Islam. I was born to an Arab father and I was born Islamic, and on behalf of the people of Sudan and as a black African woman’that is what I have to say. By any means necessary, I am for Africa.
KW: Did your parents being murdered by Muslims shape your attitudes at all?
KB: Oh, absolutely. But one of my brothers in my adopted family converted to Islam and I love him with all my heart. I have Muslim women who understand my pain and they give me lots of love and support. But what Black Americans never think about is that the African version of Islam is totally different from American Islam. They've never seen mothers doused in gasoline and set on fire for ’religious' reasons. So they don't know what I'm talking about.
KW: As an irrepressible feminist, do you see Islam as a too restrictive religion?
KB: While I love Mohammed and Jesus Christ’I reject all men's religions, not just Islam, but Christianity, Judaism and whatever else the men use for a whip. I believe that Christianity trains black people, especially black women, to think like slaves, and I believe that Islam is mainly fueled by its hatred for women. As for feminism, I am a womanist more than I'm a feminist. I love cooking for men and making love with them’not just reproductive lovemaking but I like sex for the sake of freaking out with men. I value men and I don't necessarily want to adopt the man's role, but I do want to see women's humanity honored and respected. I do feel it's crucial that women's opinions be taken equally with men’s. But still’I have not been accepted by the American white feminist writers and activists, and frankly I don't care to be, so I am a womanist. I am feisty and I am given to womanish behavior.
KW: Why do you appear topless on both your book and on your website? To sell books? To generate books? Or are you just an exhibitionist?
KB: I appear topless as a way of holding on to my Nilotic culture, and I also do it to taunt those Africans who are ashamed of our original cultural beliefs. Africans believed that the woman's bare breast represented God, the circle of life and the moral cleanliness of human beings. Right now, there are more than 100 million African women who go topless at some point in the day, each and every day, to honor both God and our ancestors. So being in a country like America where nothing is hated more than the image of the black woman, even by black people’because her womb produces the black man and makes us black’I find it of grave importance to implement African images, and especially to produce media images that acknowledge the sexual power and fertility of black women.
KW: Do you deliberately try to be controversial?
KB: Absolutely not. I long to be accepted as myself. I'm too good for assimilation.
KW: Do you feel alienated from or supported by black America?
KW: Do you regret making the rounds of the TV talk shows, or do you think they treated you fairly?
KB: I don't regret it, but I find it very insulting how they always try to focus on the most ’gossipy’ meaningless questions like ’Did Osama want Whitney Houston?’ and that crap rather than the invasive political, religious and cultural aspects of my experience with Osama. People don't want truth, they just want trash.
KW: What I appreciated about your book was your brutal honesty and your engaging way of telling a story. Where did you get that ability to be so blunt?
KB: It started when my birth parents were murdered and I stayed outdoors all night with the bodies. Years later in America, around fourteen, my psychiatrist explained to me that staying with the bodies that night made me fearless. He said that it made me an ’emotional exhibitionist’ and told me never to let people convince me that I was weird for speaking with clarity and passion.
KW: Do you ever regret going so public with your personal life?
KB: No, I had to. There are millions of little black girls out there who really need me to do that.
KW: What is the one skeleton you've shared with the world that you'd like to put back in your closet?
KB: I never wanted anyone to know about me and Osama. I wanted that to be a secret that I carried to my grave, and since I wasn't the one who revealed it’it's definitely something that I wish was in the closet. It's destroyed my career.
KW: There was a lot in the news recently about Madonna adopting a boy from Malawi and you were adopted from Sudan by African-Americans. What are your thoughts on this sort of adoption?
KB: I'm not at all against white people adopting black children, because we're all human beings who need to give love and be nurtured in safety, but I do think it's better to be adopted by blacks. I happen to know at least a hundred Sudanese refugees in the United States, all of whom were taken in by white families and white churches, and they all tell me’’Naima, you were blessed to be raised by Black Americans.’ And because I was in psychiatric treatment for most of my childhood and had to learn English and had to adjust to a white-dominated society, I truly know what they mean. It's not something that you can explain in the confines of an interview, but there is an immediate comfort, a connection between black phenotypes that is natural. Even though I couldn't speak English, there were many times that my black-American parents could read my mind and I could read theirs. It was because we shared the bloodberry, African tribal blood, and I would not have had that with whites, not even African whites, no matter how much they loved and wanted me. Race means family and all black people whether they like it or not, are family. This is why I warn black Americans’don't get too mixed. A little is fine, but not to the point where you're out of the family.
KW: How is it that you've been able to make so many sage insights about the African-American condition?
KB: I don't see a huge difference between the African condition and the black American condition. The only real difference is that black Americans live in the richest country on Earth surrounded by a majority white population and are almost entirely disconnected from their original culture and their God-given identity. But in my case, because I was adopted my black Americans, I feel that I'm a ’Hybrid’. When I'm around Africans’I suddenly feel very black American. And when I'm around black Americans’I feel very North African. North Africa and black America are both the creators of Kola Boof.
KW: And where did you develop your writing style? Were you assisted by a ghostwriter?
KB: A ghostwriter! How dare you! Nobody's ever written any of my work but me. But as for developing a writing style’I would say that I tried to copy the pacing of the old movies I loved as a kid. When I couldn't speak English, I loved silent films circa 1914-1929, Abel Gance being my favorite director. And then later, I loved 1930's women's pictures’films by Josef Von Sternberg or William Wyler. So, I fashioned a style out of that. The integrity and ethos of what I would write, however, came from the films of Ousmane Sembene and from reading Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath and Alice Walker.
KW: How old are your sons, and what do they think of their mom?
KB: My sons are both younger than eleven. They’re very protective and loving towards me, but I don't know what's in their secret minds about me. They are in the state of Cuoiingo, a stage between 5-16 where black boys are raised more by the father than the mother, though both parents are in the house, so right now they feel that their father is the strict one and that I'm some kind of magical safe harbor.
KW: Are you married or in a relationship now? How would your man describe what being in a relationship with you is like?
KB: Men always liked me, because I was very damaged and unpredictable’my children's father claims that I have multiple personalities, but I don't. I seem to go for very dominant men. Right now, I've been separated from my children's father for two years’he's moved on to a younger woman from his own culture, Belize, but we're still very close and we raise our sons together. He monitors the boys daily and lives here on the weekends so they can hunt, fish and bond. I would love to have a new man in my life since he's found someone, but I feel as if I'm going through a mid-life crisis right now. I don't feel very attractive and it's like I'm frigid or something. I'm aging and it makes me very sad.
KW: Is there any truth to the recent rumors romantically linking you to certain celebrities?
KB: I'm glad you brought that up, because the rumors about me being with Jamal Lewis, Adam Carolla and Tiki Barber are absolutely false. I've never even met Adam or Tiki Barber in person’we did phone interviews. What happens is that a lot of high-profile men saw topless photos of me. They heard I was a ’sex slave’’you have men who want to hit what Osama hit. I'm not talking about Adam, Tiki or Jamal Lewis, but none of the rumors about me are true. I'm not a cannibal, I don't have sex with other women. I'm not told what to say by any Republicans and I've never done a personal appearance topless.
KW: While this persona Kola Boof you've created is certainly intriguing, that's not your real name. Is there a part of you that you've managed to keep private despite baring your soul?
KB: Definitely. There's a whole world about me that no one knows.
KW: Who is the real Naima Bint Harith, and how is she different from Kola Boof?
KB: I'm not a ’strong warrior queen’ like people think. I spend most of my day cooking and doing things with my sons. I like to be alone and very quiet at night, and I have this problem where it's like’I can never stop thinking. For instance, I find myself obsessing over the treatment of black women and girls by black men’the fact that black men have a special prejudice against black women and generally don't protect them or attempt to understand them, and I cry an awful lot about that. And no, I'm not talking about my children's father’he's a wonderful black man, the hero of my life, and he's never disrespected or betrayed me. But I'm talking about what I see in the streets and in the media, this naked hatred that black men have towards the authentic black woman’which is really an indication of black men's hatred for blackness itself. Those women who can make them whiter, they seek out, celebrate and protect. But the mother of our race’they demonize and disallow, they make excuses for why they can't honor the image of their own mother. God would agree with me that the majority of black Americans are white supremacists’they think that bitch in New York Harbor is their real mother, or at least, they want her to be. And because I'm an African woman, I suppose these thoughts torture me more than they do black American people, because it's like watching my own children trapped in a car that's sinking to the bottom of a lake and being impotent to save them’the black Americans have their own holocaust going on. They whine about Michael Richards calling us niggers, but what are we if not niggerstock? You see the black man erasing black children from the landscape, you see black women desperately trying to get the black man's attention by wearing blonde hair and fake blue eyes, 500 years after he sold her and their children across the ocean, and she's still an idiot and a weakling just like she was back in Africa’she can't stand up for herself, for her womb, only for him’so you see this total holocaust devouring the black Americans, who are not my cousins as they like to claim, but are my children’yes, not Lena Horne, not that bitch in New York Harbor, but me, I'm their real mother! I am!’so in Naima's private life, as an African mother, this is the demon that rides my back each and everyday.
KW: Are you working on another book or some other project?
KB: Oh, I'm working on tons of projects. Novels, poems, movie scripts that I'd like to direct’someday my own cooking show. I'm currently serving as a ’ghost consultant’ on one of daytime's top rated soap operas and that's always fun, because I learned English by watching soaps as a kid, and since I don't have any formal education and can't teach at the universities like other literary writers do. Writing for the soaps helps me to supplement things. Fans should look for two Kola Boof novels coming out in 2007’’Virgins In the Beehive’ and ’The Sexy Part of the Bible,’ and a new poetry collection, ’The White Man's Mother,’ meaning Africa, plus, at last’a book tour.
KW: Thanks for the time, Kola.
KB: You know, Kam, I was really a bitch towards you when we first met, and I'd already pre-judged you with such venomous prejudice’I feel very bad about that, because I've now come to like you so much, and though I've said this before, I just want to say again that I'm very sorry I was so vicious towards you. you're an absolutely splendid brother. Thanks for all your consideration and support.
Kam & Kola's Initial Encounter
Read a Review of
of a Lost Girl by Kam Williams
Read a Review of
of a Lost Girl by Chris Stevenson of The Buffalo Criterion