In this debut memoir, an Ethiopian man describes his journey from student to refugee following a revolution.
Growing up with a wealthy, if somewhat reserved, father in rural Ethiopia, Tiruneh was in a good position to receive an education and expand his horizons beyond his small village. As a student of geography with a keen interest in Western movies, it seemed that he would easily achieve his goals—until the region’s political upheaval in the 1970s changed the course of his life. Facing revolt, massacres, and a brutal totalitarian regime, Tiruneh went from student to teacher, and then lived a life in hiding as a socialist rebel. Despite constant harassment by the government he opposed, he successfully fled to New York City to make a new life for himself. In this memoir, Tiruneh uses one of the world’s most troubled political climates of the last 40 years as his backdrop. He writes of fascinating moments from his childhood and early life, from a time he pretended to be sick in order to test his father’s love to his awkward first interaction with a girl. His prose can be somewhat detached, though, as if he’s reporting on events he merely witnessed rather than lived through. However, the compelling details he chooses will give readers a surprisingly clear view of both his character and the complexities of life in Ethiopia. He narrates with certainty and insight, balancing historical facts with firsthand experiences in his family. “The killing of so many innocent people was a puzzle that I could not solve,” he writes of a brutal massacre in Bichena, demonstrating his rational, even-tempered manner, which is often at odds with the chaos and conflict surrounding him. This even temperament sometimes makes the story less suspenseful, particularly while he’s in hiding and struggling to get to the United States. That said, readers interested in the reality of Ethiopia will find him to be an enlightened narrator who paints an authentic, powerful portrait of his native country.
An often engaging perspective into the social and political landscape of revolutionary Ethiopia.