Gratitude in Low Voices: A Memoir by Dawit Gebremichael Habte
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have a big blind spot about Eritrea. As far as I knew, it was a little upstart of a country that declared its independence from Ethiopia in the 90s. I only knew that much because we had missionaries coming through from time to time and I was strictly instructed I couldn't tell anyone that they unofficially also spent time in Eritrea. I had the impression at the time that was because the United States did not acknowledge it as a country, and that may have been true at the time, but I'm sensing it was more because said missionaries needed to be able to travel the borders between nations and already were paying bribes to do so, and didn't need any more walls preventing it.
It turns out, she says with a shameface, that Eritrea has an interesting and unique history of its own nationhood. Luckily Dawit Gebremichael Habte assumes the average English-speaking reader does not have this information, and he gives a brief history of the country-of-his-birth's history, to put his own story into context. At times it is overwhelming with so many place and people names that were completely new to me, but I blame myself and not the author. What could he do?
It is also the personal history of a man who has to flee his home country and ends up working hard and making great strides in the United States. After an education at Johns Hopkins and a job at Bloomberg, he uses his position and funds to give back to his country even in the middle of the turmoil of the 2000s, where Ethiopia once again decided to attack Eritrea.
Habte compares Eritrea to Kuwait at times and it is an apt comparison due to its size and important natural resources (the port being the most significant). But unlike Kuwait, it rarely had the powerful countries on its side. Any liberation had to be undertaken and still has to be undertaken from within. This is not an easy task considering the countries backing Ethiopia.
As of the writing of this book, the border dispute between the two countries was still on (what seems like indefinite) hold. Habte is back working at Bloomberg and checking in with his family and financial projects. In some ways the book felt unfinished because the story is not over, but I guess that is always true.
At least now I can say I've read a book from Eritrea for my endless Around the World reading project!
Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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