The extraordinary story of a British journalist who sought out her African birth family.
Born in civil-war-torn Eritrea in 1974, Pool was adopted as an infant by an English academic teaching nearby at the University of Khartoum. The orphanage told him both her parents were dead, and he eventually brought the little girl to Manchester, England, where she enjoyed a middle-class upbringing and education. Fully integrated into her white stepfamily, the author learned she had blood relatives only in 1993, after Eritrea’s liberation from Ethiopia, when the orphanage disclosed that her birth father was in fact alive. A few months later, she received a letter from an older brother she didn’t know she had. Overwhelmed by this unexpected contact, Pool made excuses not to act on the letter for years. Finally, nearing 30 and a feature writer for the Guardian in London, she arranged to meet her Eritrean cousin, who revealed that her mother had died giving birth to her and the whole clan had been hoping to find its lost daughter for years. Pool subsequently embarked on a scary, revelatory journey in search of her roots. At the orphanage in the bustling city of Asmara, she was handed her birth file. Deep in the Eritrean countryside, she met for the first time her aged father and the many siblings who had been raised at home on the farm. These were intensely emotional gatherings, involving copious tears, strange customs and raw feelings. Relatives constantly scolded her for not speaking Tigrinya, the native language. Taken to the hut in the village where she was born, she was astonished and moved to meet her mother’s sister. Having gone through life feeling that she never quite belonged, Pool envied her siblings and cousins their settled life with its “few certainties,” despite the grievous poverty and lack of opportunities. Colloquial, frank and touching, her account grapples with conflicted feelings of rejection and identity.
An honest, spellbinding account of a remarkable journey.