My reviews of some of the books I’ve read are given below. I’m no literary scholar. I don’t want to have to concentrate too hard when I read a book at home. Keep that in mind when you determine the value of my reviews. And, these are all MY opinions. Generally the books have gotten positive reviews from others (otherwise I wouldn’t have read them in the first place).
Fafi’s Sheep by Netsanet Kidnemariam. A children’s book. It was OK. It took an awfully long time to get through the book and the life lessons that seems to be, “listen to your mother!” I think because it took so long and wandered, it lost its potency. Recommended after you finish the others.
Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia by Rebecca Haile – The author immigrated to America as a child and the story is of her return to Ethiopia for the first time twenty-five years later. She does a great job of incorporating a lot of different things into the story. She gives historical information (political and religious), her life as an Ethiopian child in Minnesota, her life as an Ethiopian child in the American School in Addis, the contrast between her father the historian/academic and her uncle the engineer/road builder. I think one of the most impactful aspects of the book is what seems to be the conflict within herself about being an Ethiopian returning to her home and having been in America for so long that she is sometimes a Ferengi in her home country. I think the reason I like this is because this resonates so greatly with me about fears, concerns, and hopes of how it will be for my son to return to Ethiopia as an adult and/or teenager. Really recommended.
Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker – A couple’s process of adopting a child from Zimbabwe. I enjoyed this book. It was a quite easy read. I had a lot of “oh yeah” type of moments from my time in Zimbabwe…from mannerisms to references to geographical features. It also had the side benefit of making me appreciate the ease of an Ethiopian adoption. Recommended.
Silly Mammo by Gebregeorgis Yohannes. A children’s book. I hated it. Not recommended.
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu – An Ethiopian immigrant’s experience in America. I don’t understand why this book got good reviews. Usually I read a book in 2-5 days, depending on my life events that week. This book took 4 weeks. Why? Because every time I picked it up, I put it back down shortly thereafter due to boredom. Maybe I don’t understand the literary aspect of it, but I expect a book to evoke emotion. The only emotion I got out of this was apathy. Even the narratives about violence barely made me react. Not recommended.
The Beekeeper of Lalibela by Cristina Kessler. A children’s book. I liked it a lot. It had 2 great lessons for kids to learn. And it is written in Amharic and English. Really recommended. Get it from www.Ethiopiareads.org.
The Hospital by the River by Dr. Catherine Hamlin – The story of the Hamlins, both doctors, who eventually build the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. I know this book was written as a pseudo-autobiography, but the title of it made me think it was supposed to be mostly about the Hospital. The first few chapters retelling the Hamlins’ geneaology bored me a bit, but I really enjoyed how historical events of Ethiopia were made more real by presenting her take on them. Examples of this include an account of weekly forays of food delivery to the people that were thrown in jail by the Derg or hiding to avoid being his by bullets flying during the seizures of people/buildings. The best part of the book, for me, was the stories of the women (and pictures) who had fistulas and how the repairs affected them. I’m very glad she didn’t candy-coat everything and told of some of the women they were unable to help due to the severity of the fistulas. The name dropping (I knew Ambassador XX, we had dinner with Princess YY, we stayed at the home of Gajillionaire ZZ, etc.) was tiring. Recommended, but don’t put it on your priority list.
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green – The story of a woman, Haregewoin, who works to take care of HIV+ children in Ethiopia. This book was easy to read and did a good job of presenting facts about HIV/AIDS by humanizing them into one person’s story. There were some instances of poor editing. I actually had to check my spot in the book to see if I had accidentally lost my page or if I was reading the same thing twice. Beware, though, this book will make you want to go and scoop up all the kids you can. I got this book as a gift from a friend, a very good choice for a gift. Recommended.
Tsehai Loves Learning. OK, this is not a book, but… This is a DVD of some puppets that sing and dance in a low-budget version of Sesame Street. I think it’s a good deal for the money. And, mostly because of this DVD, my 2-year old can count to ten in Amharic. They do have a clip on the internet that you can watch as a preview.
Let me know if there are other books you think I should read. I’m pretty frugal, so the books really need to be worth it (or available at the public library).
28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen. Very powerful book. The author does an amazing job of giving uniqueness and similarities to each person’s story. She makes each person’s life and life experience matter. It was hard for me to stop reading even though I was overcome with a huge range of emotions. Best book I’ve read this year, by far. Most recommended.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler. This is the story of two American families (one is American WASPy-like, and one is of Iranian heritage) that adopt two Korean baby girls. The story hits on a lot of different subjects, adoption, first generation immigrants, second-generation families, and a lot of relationship stuff. I found myself smiling about the different types of people I recognized from the book in our own adoption journey. If you read the book and don’t know anybody who is a Bitsy, then it’s you! Recommended.
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by Daniel Mesfin. This is a cookbook of Ethiopian recipes. It is written, I think, for Westerners. There is a lot of really interesting stuff in the beginning of the book about Ethiopian culture related to food, coffee, and social situations. (I actually think that is the best part). The book also has a lot of vegetarian recipes. It must be a good book because I was just planning to show my friend the book, but then she appropriated it as her birthday present (that’s fine, I just expect some homemade treats from the book’s recipes in return). I have 3 other books with Ethiopian recipes, one in Amharic that my husband somehow thought would be helpful to me (?), one that is basically a Home Ec book for Ethiopians (has a few good recipes but also includes how to prepare Cornflakes), and the Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors (I like the variety of international recipes and the few Ethiopian recipes are pretty good). Plus, I also look up stuff online. I think I will buy a few more of the Exotic Ethiopian Cooking though, with the intent to keep one for myself (with my name written on the book edges!) and the rest to give as gifts. Recommended.