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The Book of the Week is “Gratitude In Low Voices, A Memoir” by Dawit Gebremichael Habte, published in 2017. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked an extensive list of detailed sources, and an index), through the decades of the twentieth century, Eritrea suffered the usual traumas of a former colony (of Italy from 1890 to 1941) that was fighting for independence:
- exploitation of its assets and resources (including dry docks, factories, railway cars by the British, and oil by the British and the Americans in the 1940’s);
- oppression of its people (by Ethiopia in the 1950’s and 1960’s, via a UN resolution that was violated after a decade);
- a military draft (by the Ethiopian government in 1983);
- famine (in 1984);
- ideology and language of the oppressors forced on students in the schools (by Ethiopians, funded by the Soviets in the mid-1980’s); and
- arrests of and atrocities committed against, Eritrean people who uttered one word in any form, critical of Ethiopia (beginning in the mid-1980’s).
In 1973 or 1974, the author was born into a typical lifestyle for his time and place. He herded sheep and goats at an early age. By then, the Eritrean independence movement was gaining ground in the form of two armed groups resisting Ethiopian oppression: Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). His father joined the former group, and desirous to have his son educated, in the early 1980’s, sent him to school in Asmara.
Through his formative years, the author received an eclectic education. At about nine years old, he became apprenticed to a carpenter. Afraid the generous pay would corrupt him, his mother sent him to study the Bible at Saint George Orthodox Church. There, he learned Tigrinya, the language of his native people. His father went to Saudi Arabia to work, and sent money home. Eventually, his family became refugees from the violence and left Asmara but stayed in Eritrea.
Read the book to learn what transpired when the author wished to gain access to the resources in a library in his neighborhood and later, when he paid a people-smuggler to help him flee for Kenya; and his and Eritrea’s fate.