Synopses & Reviews
This powerful book gives readers a chance to experience Ethiopia through the personal experience of a writer who is both Ethiopian and American. It takes readers beyond headlines and stereotypes to a deeper understanding of the country. This is an absorbing account of the authors return trip to Ethiopia as an adult, having left the country in exile with her family at age 11. She profiles relatives and friends who have remained in Ethiopia, and she writes movingly about Ethiopias recent past and its ancient history. She offers a clear-eyed analysis of the state of the country today, and her keen observations and personal experience will resonate with readers. This is a unique glimpse into a fascinating African country by a talented writer.
Held at a Distance
An Ethiopian Journey
Rebecca G. Haile
Rebecca Haile offers a fresh look at an old country that has been thrust into modernity by abrupt and violent political change. This powerful book allows readers a chance to experience Ethiopia through the personal connection of a writer who is both Ethiopian and American. It takes readers beyond simple headlines and stereotypes to a deeper understanding of the country.
Haile was born in Ethiopia in 1965 and lived there until she was eleven years old. In 1974, military officers deposed the late Emperor Haile Selassie. Her father was a leading academic and Amharic language scholar in Addis Ababa, and he was elected to the short-lived Ethiopian parliament in 1975. However, he was quickly targeted for his outspoken and independent views and for his close ties to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In late 1975, he was shot while resisting arrest. He just barely survived, and he and his family were fortunate to get out of the country shortly thereafter. They left behind family and friends and settled in a small town in central Minnesota, where they struggled with the cultural and financial strain of their drastically changed circumstances. In time all hope of returning to Ethiopia faded. Haile grew up in America harboring her sacred childhood memories but in time saw herself as more and more American. She attended Williams College and Harvard Law School. She lived in Washington DC and now in New York City. In 2001, she was the first member of her family to return to Ethiopia. Her trip is loosely chronicled in a series of essays that profiles key family members remaining in the country, and she also reflects poetically on Ethiopia’s recent past and aspects of its ancient history.
For Ethiopia, the third largest country in Africa, the last thirty years has been a period of difficult upheaval. The 1974 coup ended a centuries old monarchy and ushered in a brutal dictatorship that terrorized the country for fifteen years. In 1991, that dictatorship was ousted by rebel fighters from the north, who have clung to power and remain in control today. Millions have been affected by war and strife, and yet a surprisingly few books have grappled with the challenges and consequences of this period. Apart from occasional reports on famine and war, the West has largely ignored Ethiopia and its seventy million inhabitants. Haile’s book will counter this silence. She offers a clear-eyed analysis of the country today, and her keen observations and personal experience will resonate with readers. This is a unique glimpse into a fascinating African country.
About the Author
Rebecca Haile lives in NYC with her husband and two small children. She is a Harvard trained lawyer, and now is a full-time writer and community activist. This is her first book.