FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Friday, October 4, 2019

Read "To Stop a Warlord" To See the Impact of Determination (Uganda, Sudan, CAR, DRC)

(Audible Read)  Read by the author Shannon Davis, To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace, was a phenomenal "read".  What I enjoyed most about this story was the way in which it challenged my own western conceptions of what justice means (even if I didn't complete agree with the outcomes).

This book is the story of how one woman created a new paradigm in how NGOs/charitable organizations should/could/can confront atrocity and evil by partnering with the military.  Shannon Davis is the CEO of Bridgeway Foundation and she decided to do something about Joseph Kony and his reign of terror.

The short story is that Bridgeway partnered with a private military contractor to train a special Ugandan military unit to hunt down Joseph Kony and his band of murderous, child-soldier recruiting, rape and pillaging, terrorist men.

In the end, they never got Kony (he's still at large) but they decimated his army, notably by shifting their tactics to one focused on recruiting his followers to "come home."  Practically, this meant a pivot towards a psyops campaign that included everything from leaflets, to radio broadcasts, to flying aircraft with a speaker playing recorded messages from the soldiers' families.  Of course, none of this would have been effective if Uganda and the international community had decided to prosecute every returnee.  Instead they made it clear that only the few major figures that were indicted by the International Criminal Court would be pursued legally.  The rest would be welcomed home and reintegrated into their home communities.  What made this process all the more incredible is Davis' storytelling where on one page she details the brutal rapes and murders of an individual and on the next a community welcoming that person home.  Honestly, this was hard to swallow for me and it's evident that it was difficult for the author as well, however; ultimately, this is a story about grace--which can be defined as undeserved forgiveness.  In this case, it's one of the highest forms of grace because it costs people so much (for more on this google "cheap grace bonhoeffer").

Other highlights include Davis' collaboration with Invisible Children, and her alternating chapters narrated by David Ocitti, a former LRA child soldier who Kony's henchmen forced to kill others just like him.  David's journey is remarkable as he embarks on a journey to broker grace and recruit home other children like himself.  But ultimately, it's Davis' clarion voice--reaching out with a mother's tenderness--humble with her own self-doubts that make this story such a powerful one.


*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
**See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.






























Key References (for further study):
How One CEO Helped Counter the Violence of a Warlord
2019 NPR Interview with Shannon Davis
https://www.bridgewayfoundation.org/
Can a Court in Uganda Deliver Justice to Victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army?

Friday, September 27, 2019

Read "Gratitude in Low Voices" to Experience a Refugee's Journey (Eritrea)

Equal parts memoir, history and adventure novel, Dawit Habte’s “Gratitude in Low Voices” is the story of not only his country’s 91 year struggle for independence but also his own incredible journey from a countryside village in Eritrea to the offices of Bloomberg as a software engineer. As with many refugee stories that have come out of Africa, the western reader will be floored by the tenacity, resilience and grit that the author displays at such a young age as he smuggles himself out of Ethiopia, and finally gets refugee status to start his life over continue his life in the United States. One thing that struck me was Habte’s commentary on the dehumanizing nature of seeking asylum--where you are assumed to be starting anew on a better life despite having a family, people, and country that you call home half a world away.

In my own quest to read a novel from every country in Africa this checks the Eritrea box even though it isn’t a work of fiction. I’ve counted it though because it reads like fiction and because Habte’s is such an important voice in offering a counter-narrative to the often louder Ethiopian one with regard to the past violent conflict between the two nations. (To understand any conflict it’s important to research and listen to the competing narratives, particularly on the personal level since wars and struggles are all too often white-washed in sterile casualty figures--”Gratitude” puts a face to those numbers).

Habte does a good job making the complicated history of Eritrea readable and easy to digest. He notes early on that his country is the only one that had to fight for its independence from both European colonizers and an African one (i.e., Ethiopia). Having recently read a very comprehensive history of the Italian struggle against Italy (see my review of Prevail here), it was useful to see how the Eritreans viewed it since Eritreans felt largely sold out by the partners in the south.

The recent denouement between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a testament to Abiy’s political capabilities but this book highlights how large the obstacles are that remain.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
**See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.


Other recommended books by the author (you can follow him on twitter here):


My Brief Notes on Biopolitics, Militarism and Development in Eritrea
DLI Background on Eritrea

Key Quotes:
  • 33 “Most mothers are instinctive philosophers” -Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • 58 “Dry the sea to kill the fish” unofficial motto of Ethiopia as they sought to destroy any hope of Eritrean independence.
  • 82 “I also do not think there is anything so finely perceived and so finely felt by children as a gesture of goodwill.”
  • 144 “A refugee is always a pawn to be used.”
  • 238 “Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
Key Takeaways:
  • 7    naming convention--you get your own first name but the rest of your names are those of your father and his father and this father etc.
  • 14 background history--post WWII, Eritrea placed under British military administration. Then in 1950, UN federated Eritrea with Ethiopia. 12 years later, Ethiopia dissolved the federation and annexed Eritrea as a province.
  • 16 history of Christianity: Christianity introduced to the area by Syrian Monk named Freminatos during the early 4th century. Later came the 9 saints who preached the gospel for many years making it the dominant religion. (more history on page 2 of this document: https://www.africanidea.org/Ethiopian_Orthodox_Tewahedo.pdf
  • 32 apprenticeship a long-standing tradition for children transition from village to city life.
  • 54 Battle of Dogali, great Ethiopian general Ras Alula beats Italy. Good history/biography of him here: https://www.africanidea.org/Abanega.pdf They also wrote a poem of praise regarding his victory:
    • “Although the Italian sat foot at Sehati, Alula roasted him by his metal oven (metaphoric); Italians, You better listen to our advise! You may dig trenches but that may very well be your graveyard. This country Ethiopia, the land of Bezbiz [Emperor Yohannes], is just like a tiger defending its children without compromise whatsoever.”
  • 55 1890 Borders drawn between Italy, Britain, France and Abyssinian king Menelik II. These are the borders, more or less, as we know them today.
  • 55 Nakura island--was the Eritrean alcatraz where community leaders were jailed.
  • 56 “Breaker of Nakura” was Ali Mohammed Osman Buri who led the escape and overthrow of the island jail.
  • 57 Menlik’s folly was when he accepted Italy recognizing his rule in Ethiopia in return for his recognizing Eritrea as an Italian colony. This would come back to bite Italy obviously
  • 58 unique Eritrean experience as they were the only country denied independence after Europe left its colonies
  • 131 dehumanizing to seek asylum
  • 145 Ethiopian atrocities in 70’s under the Derg were numerous
  • 148 made in USA bombs used in February 1990 Ethiopian bombing of Massawa with napalm. Here’s a good reference on that. https://www.hrw.org/reports/1990/WR90/AFRICA.BOU-02.htm
  • 168 1991 Eritrean independence
  • 170 91 year struggle for independence since they broke out of Nakura prison.
  • 238 Nostalgia
Key References (For further study):

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Read "Small Country" to See Ethnic Violence Destroy Childhood (Burundi)

One of the best books that I read this year.

I sped through it in three heady days, finishing the last third of the book in a marathon nighttime session tucked in bed next to my sleeping wife.

I couldn’t put the book down.

Reading Gael Faye’s “Small Country”, I was reminded of the writing of other writers such as Teju Cole, Dinaw Mengestu, Maaza Mengiste, Noviolet Bulawayo, and poets like Frank Chipasula, Atukwei Okai, and K'naan. Faye writes with a musician’s flair (and indeed he was a well known rapper/musician before becoming an author), penning lines like: “And when he laughed, happiness washed over the walls of Mamie’s small living room like a fresh lick of paint.”

“Small Country” is one of the first novels (i.e., fiction) about the Rwandan genocide and was translated into English in 2018 after winning the 2016 Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. In my effort to read a novel from every country in Africa I’ve categorized it under Burundi, however, because that is where the main characters live and the location through which the themes of exile and displacement are examined.

At the end of the book, Gabriel reflects that “I used to think I was exiled from my country. But, in retracing the steps of my past, I have understood that I was exiled from my childhood. Which seems so much crueler.” This summarizes well the crux of the story, Gabriel is Rwandan-French but spends his entire childhood in neighboring Burundi until the effects of the 1994 Rwanda genocide push him even further away to France. It’s there that he considers what exactly he’s lost and finally finds the courage to return and makes a heart-breaking discovery.

Serendipitously, in writing this review of “Small Country”, I discovered the music of the author and its terrific. In fact, he even made a companion video of sorts to the novel which you can see below. Also, they are finishing up a movie version of the book!

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
**See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.





Key Takeaways:

On Genocide, War, and the Death of Childhood:
But for the time being, our country was like a barefoot zombie walking over sharp stones, its parched tongue hanging out. We had grown used to the idea of dying at any moment. Death was no longer something distant and abstract. It was the banal face of our everyday existence. Living with this kind of clarity laid waste to what was left of our childhood...I used to think I was exiled from my country. But, in retracing the steps of my past, I have understood that I was exiled from my childhood. Which seems so much crueler.

On Memory and Poetry: Poetry may not be news. But it is all that human beings retain from their journey on this earth.

On Nationalism: Not one of them fails to ask me the same nagging question, and it’s always on our first date: “So, where are you from?” A question as mundane as it is predictable. It feels like an obligatory rite of passage, before the relationship can develop any further. My skin—the color of caramel—must explain itself by offering up its pedigree. “I’m a human being.” My answer rankles with them. It’s not that I’m trying to be provocative. Any more than I want to appear pedantic or philosophical. But when I was just knee-high to a locust, I had already made up my mind never to define myself again.

On the inevitability of violence:
We were living on the axis of the Great Rift, at the precise spot where Africa fractures. The people of this region mirrored the land. Beneath the calm appearance, behind the facade of smiles and optimistic speeches, dark underground forces were continuously at work, fomenting violence and destruction that returned for successive periods, like bad winds: 1965, 1972, 1988. A glowering, uninvited ghost showing up at regular intervals to remind us that peace is merely a brief interlude between two wars. This poisonous lava, the thick flow of blood, was ready to rise to the surface once more.

On Classical Music and Coups:
Later on, I discovered that it was traditional to play classical music during a military coup. On November 28, 1966, for Michel Micombero’s coup, it was Schubert’s piano sonata No. 21; on November 9, 1976, for Jean-Baptiste Bagaza’s coup, it was Beethoven’s 7th symphony; and on September 3, 1987, for Pierre Buyoya’s coup, it was Chopin’s Bolero in C major. On this day, October 21, 1993, we were treated to Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods.

On the Impossibility of Neutrality: I couldn’t explain this cruel shift, this tangible sense of confusion. That is, until break-time one day, when two Burundian boys started fighting behind the main playground, hidden from the view of teachers and supervisors. The other Burundian students, wading into the hot waters of the dispute, promptly divided into two groups, each supporting one of the boys. “Filthy Hutus!” shouted one side. “Filthy Tutsis!” replied the other. That afternoon, for the first time in my life, I entered the dark reality of this country. I was a direct witness to Hutu–Tutsi antagonism, the line that could not be crossed, forcing everyone to belong to one camp or the other. This camp was something you were born with, like a child’s given name, something that followed you forever. Hutu or Tutsi. It had to be one or the other. Heads or tails. From that day on, I was like a blind person who had regained their sight, as I began to decipher people’s body language and glances, words left unspoken and ways of behaving that had previously passed me by. War always takes it upon itself, unsolicited, to find us an enemy. I wanted to remain neutral, but I couldn’t. I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belonged to it.

On Colonial Empathy:
“Africa, what a waste!” cursed Jacques, pouring himself another stiff glass of whiskey.

On Perseverance: “Tomorrow, the sun will rise and we shall try again,”

On the Music of War: While we were arguing, far off, up in the hills, we could hear the AMX-10 tanks firing. Over time, I had learned to recognize their notes in the musical stave of war that surrounded us. There were evenings when the noise of weapons blended into the birdsong or the call of the muezzin, and I found such beauty in this peculiar soundscape that I forgot myself entirely.

On War: Perhaps this was what war meant: understanding nothing.

On Identity: If you come from a country, if you are born there, as what might be called a native by birthright, well then, that country is in your eyes, your skin, your hands, together with the thick hair of its trees, the flesh of its soil, the bones of its stones, the blood of its rivers, its sky, its flavor, its men and women…

Key References (for further study):

LitHub Interview with Gael Faye
French article on the movie version coming out




Key Quotes:

“So…why are they at war?” “Because they don’t have the same nose.”

Location: 90

I am haunted by the idea of returning. Not a day goes by without the country calling to me.

Location: 94

Except that I no longer live anywhere. Living somewhere involves a physical merging with its landscape, with every crevice of its environment. There’s none of that here. I’m passing through. I rent. I crash. I squat. My town is a dormitory that serves its purpose. My apartment smells of fresh paint and new linoleum. My neighbors are perfect strangers, we avoid each other politely in the stairwell.

Location: 101

Not one of them fails to ask me the same nagging question, and it’s always on our first date: “So, where are you from?” A question as mundane as it is predictable. It feels like an obligatory rite of passage, before the relationship can develop any further. My skin—the color of caramel—must explain itself by offering up its pedigree. “I’m a human being.” My answer rankles with them. It’s not that I’m trying to be provocative. Any more than I want to appear pedantic or philosophical. But when I was just knee-high to a locust, I had already made up my mind never to define myself again.

Location: 131

Poetry may not be news. But it is all that human beings retain from their journey on this earth.

Location: 140

But Maman was head and shoulders above him—even her ankles were legendary!

Location: 158

In those happy times, if anyone asked me, “Life’s good?” I would always answer: “Life’s good!” Wham-bam. When you’re happy, you don’t think twice about it. It was only afterward that I began to consider the question.

Location: 168

Burundian restraint gave way to Zairean commotion.

Location: 185

we arrived in Bukavu—a sort of Garden of Eden on the banks of Lake Kivu and an art deco relic of a town that had once been Futurist.

Location: 220

“The last time I was in Belgium, the docs told me to give up the smokes or I was done for. There’s nothing I haven’t been through here: wars, looting, shortages, Bob Denard and Kolwezi, thirty years of bloody ‘Zairinization,’ and it’s the cigarettes that’ll get me in the end! Goddamn

Location: 238

At least with the Zaireans, they’re easy to understand: you just pay the bribe.

Location: 301

started singing “Sambolera.” Maman joined in. There was a beautiful quality to her voice, one that touched your soul, triggering as many goosebumps as the air-con. It made you want to pause the cassette and only listen to her.

Location: 629

And when he laughed, happiness washed over the walls of Mamie’s small living room like a fresh lick of paint.

Location: 702

And yet they were both talking about the same thing. Returning to their country. One belonged to history, the other was tasked with making history happen.

Location: 1,141

A warm downpour was about to come crashing down on us, so violently that we would run to collect the tables, chairs and plates before sheltering under the safety of our barza to watch the party dissolving in a cloudburst. Soon my birthday would be over, but I chose to savor that minute before the rain came down in earnest, that taste of suspended happiness as music joined our hearts and filled the space between us, celebrating life, this moment in time, the eternity of my eleven years, here, beneath the cathedral that was the rubber fig tree of my childhood, and deep down I knew that everything would turn out all right.

Location: 1,188

We were living on the axis of the Great Rift, at the precise spot where Africa fractures. The people of this region mirrored the land. Beneath the calm appearance, behind the facade of smiles and optimistic speeches, dark underground forces were continuously at work, fomenting violence and destruction that returned for successive periods, like bad winds: 1965, 1972, 1988. A glowering, uninvited ghost showing up at regular intervals to remind us that peace is merely a brief interlude between two wars. This poisonous lava, the thick flow of blood, was ready to rise to the surface once more. We didn’t know it yet, but the hour of the inferno had come, and the night was about to unleash its cackle of hyenas and wild dogs.

Location: 1,217

Later on, I discovered that it was traditional to play classical music during a military coup. On November 28, 1966, for Michel Micombero’s coup, it was Schubert’s piano sonata No. 21; on November 9, 1976, for Jean-Baptiste Bagaza’s coup, it was Beethoven’s 7th symphony; and on September 3, 1987, for Pierre Buyoya’s coup, it was Chopin’s Bolero in C major. On this day, October 21, 1993, we were treated to Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods.

Location: 1,240

They’re too much, those colonial settlers! Their pets’ lives matter more to them than human ones. Anyway, I’d better get going, Gaby. More news in the next update.”

Location: 1,261

For privileged children like us, who lived in the city center and in residential neighborhoods, war was just a word.

Location: 1,373

I couldn’t explain this cruel shift, this tangible sense of confusion. That is, until break-time one day, when two Burundian boys started fighting behind the main playground, hidden from the view of teachers and supervisors. The other Burundian students, wading into the hot waters of the dispute, promptly divided into two groups, each supporting one of the boys. “Filthy Hutus!” shouted one side. “Filthy Tutsis!” replied the other. That afternoon, for the first time in my life, I entered the dark reality of this country. I was a direct witness to Hutu–Tutsi antagonism, the line that could not be crossed, forcing everyone to belong to one camp or the other. This camp was something you were born with, like a child’s given name, something that followed you forever. Hutu or Tutsi. It had to be one or the other. Heads or tails. From that day on, I was like a blind person who had regained their sight, as I began to decipher people’s body language and glances, words left unspoken and ways of behaving that had previously passed me by. War always takes it upon itself, unsolicited, to find us an enemy. I wanted to remain neutral, but I couldn’t. I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belonged to it.

Location: 1,477

Christian gave me a mischievous look as he raised his eyebrows and shimmied his shoulders like an Ethiopian dancer.

Location: 1,628

For the second time in my life, I had overcome my miserable fear. One day I would leave behind that crippling burden.

Location: 1,704

From April to July 1994, at a distance and between four walls, next to a telephone and a radio, we lived through the genocide that was being perpetrated in Rwanda.

Location: 1,752

“Yeah, I’m from Zaire, but I’m a Zairean Tutsi.” “Get that, you learn something new every day!” “They call us the Banyamulenge.”

Location: 1,816

and, for some time now, men had been able to kill other men with absolute impunity, under the same midday sun as before.

Location: 1,864

“Africa, what a waste!” cursed Jacques, pouring himself another stiff glass of whiskey.

Location: 1,885

God makes us undergo these ordeals so we can prove to him that we don’t doubt him. It’s as if he’s telling us that great love relies on trust.

Location: 1,888

“Tomorrow, the sun will rise and we shall try again,”

Location: 1,924

While we were arguing, far off, up in the hills, we could hear the AMX-10 tanks firing. Over time, I had learned to recognize their notes in the musical stave of war that surrounded us. There were evenings when the noise of weapons blended into the birdsong or the call of the muezzin, and I found such beauty in this peculiar soundscape that I forgot myself entirely.

Location: 2,014

It’s taken me a long time to write to you. I’ve been very busy recently, trying to stay a child.

Location: 2,048

“Gaby,” she asked eventually, looking up at me, “why did Maman accuse us of having killed our family in Rwanda?” I had no answer to give my little sister. I had no explanation for the deaths of some and the hatred of others. Perhaps this was what war meant: understanding nothing.

Location: 2,052

But for the time being, our country was like a barefoot zombie walking over sharp stones, its parched tongue hanging out. We had grown used to the idea of dying at any moment. Death was no longer something distant and abstract. It was the banal face of our everyday existence. Living with this kind of clarity laid waste to what was left of our childhood.

Location: 2,203

Even after closing the heavy gates, I could hear her voice behind me, still lavishing me with never-ending wisdom: take care in the cold, look after your secrets, may you be rich in all that you read, in your encounters, in your loves, and never forget where you come from… When we leave somewhere, we take the time to say goodbye: to the people, the things, and the places that we’ve loved. I didn’t leave my country, I fled it. The door was wide open behind me as I walked away, without turning back. All I can remember is Papa’s small hand waving from the balcony of the airport at Bujumbura.

Location: 2,221

If you come from a country, if you are born there, as what might be called a native by birthright, well then, that country is in your eyes, your skin, your hands, together with the thick hair of its trees, the flesh of its soil, the bones of its stones, the blood of its rivers, its sky, its flavor, its men and women…

Location: 2,227

I used to think I was exiled from my country. But, in retracing the steps of my past, I have understood that I was exiled from my childhood. Which seems so much crueler.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Season of the Shadow" to Peer Into Slavery's Origins (Cameroon)

What were the beginnings of slavery like for those villagers who were first kidnapped?  Author Leonora Miana transports the reader to those early terrifying days and likens the horror of slavery to a shadow of darkness whose advance can't be stopped nor hidden from.  Instead the insidious shadow grows and consumes with a callous indifference.

Miana's story begins as the inhabitants of a tribal village tucked away in the interior of modern day Cameroon awaken to its huts ablaze and find that 12 of its men have vanished.  This mysterious disappearance sets off a chain of events that, as one might guess, ends in tragedy.  This tale's power comes as the reader is placed in the middle of a people group who's whole order and existence is thrown into havoc.  Even as the reader is keenly aware as to what happened, the kidnapping is so out of place with centuries of accepted conduct and cultural norms that its tribal members can't fathom who the perpetrators might be.

Written in lyrical prose, "Season of the Shadow" is equal parts beautiful, terrifying, and tragic.  In it Miana's reminds the world that evil unchecked can quickly grow from from the slimmest of shadows to an all-encompassing darkness.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.
**Poet of the week from Cameroon: Mbella Sonne Dipoko

Key Takeaways:
  • Parents of stillborn children were scarified to remind death that it had already taken a life (6).
  •  In the Mulongo tribe, sovereignty was passed through the maternal line (7). 
  • Importance of group over individual is emphasized at the tribal level.  One's own suffering is almost immaterial if the larger group's well-being is preserved. "I am because we are" was the tribe's motto (19, 26, 88).
  • There's a large power associated with one's name and the history associated with it.  Sharing one's name is to share a vulnerability that one has (75).  
  • The idea of this shadow is not only consuming villages and people, but also entire cultures and histories (171).
  • All it really took was one coastal tribe becoming enamored with the Europeans and their "gifts" to push them to expand and grow the kidnappings.  In this way the "shadow" of slavery was like a malignant cancer--every spreading and near impossible to stop (194-5).
Key Quotes:
  • "The shadow is also the shape our silences take." (31)
  • "Evil, his father had taught him, exists only to be battled." (157)
  • "Like other men with shaven heads...he considers that he has no past anymore." (197)
Key References:

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Prevail " to Learn How Ethiopia Resisted Against All Odds (Ethiopia)


LMVFAS (Let Me Vent For A Sec): It didn’t help that I listened (on Audible) to this 24.5 hour exhaustive (and at times exhausting) tome during my 60 minute commute home every day from DC over the course of what felt like two long months. I felt every slogging 15 minute rabbithole, every non-germane detail to the core of my aching lower back...this book could easily have been a bracing 10 hour ride without any of its power debased. My grand takeaway being that this is a better book to read vs. listen to since reading would give you better opportunity to skim the less important parts.

All that said, I can’t imagine there’s a more well-researched book out there on Ethiopia’s decades long resistance and eventual defeat of an overeager, over confident, overreaching wanna-be colonial power (i.e., Italy). Canadian author Jeff Pearce’s work is strongest as he brings to life the myriad actors, antagonists, and heroes of the saga. It’s worth noting that Pearce is a bit of a Selassie apologist but given the complicated history of Ras Tafari (yup that’s where that term came from) Makkonen’s reign, I imagine this can fall either way.

I won’t provide any further extensive notes on this book. One of my biggest criticisms of Audible is the lack of utility with regard to the its bookmark/clip Create Linkfunction. I had hundreds of 30 second bookmark clips for this 24 hour audiobook. As you can see below I tried to start going back through them, listening to each one and typing up the bookmarked quote. This became an exercise in ludicrousness (is that really a word)--who’s got time for this? I mean we landed a man on the moon like 100 years ago but there’s not a way to export the Audible bookmarks into a text file? Yes, I know there’s kind of a way to do this for Kindle purchases that you also buy the whispersync functionality for, but that’s not what I am talking about for.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.


Key References (For Further Study):


Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste.
The Man Called Brown Condor by Thomas E. Simmons
The best books on Ethiopia: start your reading here (The Guardian)
Notes from the Hyena’s Belly by Nega Mezlekia
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuscinski
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat



Afevork Ghevre Jesus: One of ethiopia’s first novelists, and Emperor Selassie’s representative in Rome.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afevork_Ghevre_Jesus

Wrote “A Heart-born Story”
https://www.selamtamagazine.com/stories/the-legacy-of-the-brown-condor
https://et.usembassy.gov/u-s-embassy-honors-the-legacy-of-colonel-john-c-robinson/


Chapter 4

Description of the first time an Black african nation had beaten a developed one in a war (1895-6). In addition the Ethiopians mutilated and amputated the captured Eritrean Askari that had fought for the Italians.
The climax of this was the Battle of Adwa.

Chapter 5

38:45 Robinson pilot opened the door for further airmen to get pilot training at Chicago’s Curtiss Wright School of Aviation by first working there as a janitor when they wouldn’t admit him--eventually an instructor got him a training slot. He later opened the John Robinson School of Aviation since in Robins, Illinois since other airfields wouldn’t let black pilots fly there.




Sunday, March 10, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Homegoing" to Experience the History of Slavery Through Six Generations (Ghana)

Last year I read “The Warmth of Other Suns” and it floored me. As discussed in my review of that book, I’d previously struggled with understanding the urgency and direction of much of the #blacklivesmatter movement. “The Warmth of Other Suns” brings to vivid horrific life the Jim Crow era and its continued echoes into life today for Black Americans. And perhaps “echo” is too soft a word since, for many, it manifests more loudly and clearly like a gunshot, siren, or slammed door. My point being that, after finishing that definitive account of the black exodus from the Jim Crow south, my heart was opened to the very real psychocultural and emotional history felt by many black americans today who still have family members that experienced this multi-generational subjugation and institutionalized hatred.

As I listened to Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” (on Audible) I began to see the very clear narrative line that she was drawing between black lives today and an origin story across the Atlantic that began centuries ago. This masterpiece of historical fiction follows the lives of two separated half-sisters (and their six generations of descendants) beginning in the mid-1700 area of West Africa today known as Ghana. Gyasi uses their two very different paths to highlight not only the horrors of the slave trade but also the bravery and determination of the many who persevered and survived across the span of time. Many critics (e.g., the New Yorker and the New York Times) call out Gyasi for not giving the generations of American characters that she describes enough autonomy and instead charge that she reduces them to caricatures whose destinies are at the mercy of the institutions, laws, societies, and culture in which they find themselves. These critics are wrong and too cantankerous--for most readers these sections of the novel will instead read as ringing endorsements of the courage and grit displayed by these characters DESPITE their circumstances. Ultimately, in “Homegoing”, the 25 year-old (I mean wow!) author accomplishes a breath-taking feat in creating a compelling history of slavery told through 14 sequential short stories that you likely ever forget.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

















Key Quotes:

“Everyone was responsible,” James tells the village. “We all were . . . we all are.”

“I will be my own nation,”

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

“You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, "now I will remove my knife slowly - so let things be easy and clean; let there be no mess." There will always be blood.”

“No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.”

“When he was young, his father told him that black people didn't like water because they were brought over on slave ships. What did a black man want to swim for? The ocean floor was already littered with black men.”

Key References:





Saturday, March 2, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Beneath the Lion's Gaze" to Experience the Horrors of the Derg in Ethiopia


One of the only African nations to never have been colonized (the five year occupation by Italy is generally not categorized as colonization), one of its darkest periods came during the 13-year socialist-Lenninist-Marxist rule of the Derg. This military junta overthrew an increasingly oblivious Haile Selassie (ending a succession of “solomonic rule” dating back to the 1200s) and set about consolidating power (aka the “Red Terror”) under the leadership of despot Mengistu Mariam. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is a retelling of this time period through the eyes of one Ethiopian family.

The family’s patriarch is a renowned doctor named Hailu who is ordered to keep the victim of a barely-alive Derg torture victim alive--ostensibly so that she can be tortured further. As he struggles with this dilemma, his son Dawit becomes a freedom fighter who becomes known as “Mekonnen Killer of Soldiers.” Author Maaza Mengiste uses the arc of this one family’s struggles to bring to life the experience of Ethiopians who starved under Selassie, only to be persecuted and killed under the Derg and starved again under its leader Mengistu’s reign.

While Mengistu was eventually toppled, like all civil war tales, no one is left unscathed in Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. All resistance, no matter how passive--or how righteous, bears a cost. Hailu in particular at the story’s conclusion, is broken so thoroughly by torture that he carries the “appearance of a man dragging death with him through life.” And it is this notion of the inseparable presence of death within everyday life that Mengiste best captures the reality for generations of Ethiopians.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 20192018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.






































Key Quotes:
  • “The nature of love is to kill for it, or to die.” 
  • “Hope can never come from doing nothing.”
  • “Those who are dead aren’t worth dying for.”
  • “Who’s left to rule if everyone’s in jail."
























Key References:

NPR: In Ethiopia, A Monarch Falls In 'The Lion's Gaze'

Chapter 2

3:09 Traditional Ethiopian dance description: “The heart follows the body.”

Chapter 3

07.24 Obelisk statue with lion commemorating . Also describes 12 martyrs square--victims of Italian massacres

09:24 Tradition where women have a cross carved into skin

https://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/a-vanished-coptic-cultural-practice-from-the-13th-century-the-branding-of-children-with-hot-iron-to-make-crosses-on-their-skin-bishop-jacques-de-vitrys-evidence/

Chapter 4

12:16 Famine used by Derg as a justification for many actions.

“Hope can never come from doing nothing.”

Chapter 15


09:50 Wine cellar at the palace used as a prison.

“Who’s left to rule if everyone’s in jail.”

Chapter 22

04:23 8-sided church in Addis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._George%27s_Cathedral,_Addis_Ababa

Chapter 25

08:54 scene of Emperor being smothered to death

Chapter 26

07:50 monument obelisk by hospital memorial to one man’s growing rage toward his people. Russian role described as a group that came to Ethiopia to help destroy it.

Chapter 36

01:55 “A missing beat can fell a man.” in discussion on the role of the heart

Chapter 39

03:35 “Those who are dead aren’t worth dying for.”

Chapter 43

09:23-09:40 Revolutionary Lion Resistance. Anbessa (Lion)

Chapter 51

13:15 Makonnen

15:44 Makonnen collects the bodies and guides them to angels, avenger of the weak...legend grows

15:58 killer of soldiers

Chapter 54

01:17 in order for families to claim the bodies of their loved ones, they would have to pay the “bullet fee” --125 birr to pay for the cost of the bullet used to kill them

Chapter 58

05:28 “Hailu had the appearance of a man dragging death with him through life.”