At the age of four he reports being kidnapped by Jesuitmissionaries, to be raised in their boarding school and given a Western education. By taking away children, the missionaries were attempting to convert black Africans to Christianity. He ran away from the missionary school when he was twenty, by which time he had forgotten his native language. In order to be able to communicate with his people, he underwent a process of "relearning". He writes about taking part in a month-long Dagara "initiation process".
Somé says the Dagara believe that each person is born with a destiny, and he or she is given a name that reflects that destiny. Somé says his name, "Malidoma", means "friend of the enemy/stranger." Somé believes it is his destiny to come to a Western audience in friendship and tell them about his experience of being torn away from his people by Westerners. He says his book, Of Water and Spirit, is his attempt to describe that journey from outsider to mediator between two worlds.