From the age of four, he lived away from the Dagara, at a Jesuitboarding school and was given a Western education. He left this 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", of the type all Dagara males undergo as part of the passage to manhood.
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.