Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis in the Pacific Northwest
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Map of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia
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The above quote has stayed with me ever since 1998, when I read Harold Scheub's wonderful book about storytellers in southern Africa. I had spent my childhood in apartheid-era South Africa, so his words held special resonance for me. They reaffirmed the complexity of history I had observed ...
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My gratitude goes to the Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis I interviewed for this book and who gave so unstintingly of their time. Although Seeking Salaam recounts only a fraction of all they told me, I hope that what appears in this book will please them.
One: At "Home" in the Pacific Northwest
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The Metro bus slows down at the intersection of East Cherry and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in Seattle. When it stops, an Eritrean woman carrying a blue plaited basket in one hand carefully steps down to the sidewalk. As the bus pulls off, she adjusts her white netsela so that the muslin covering drapes her head and splays delicately across her neck and shoulders. ...
Two: Within the American Gaze
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We arrange to meet at a Columbia City coffee shop in Seattle. I arrive a few minutes early and, in preparation for our interview, set up the recorder with date, time, and place. I have not met Asia Mohamed Egal before, so every time the door opens, I look up hopefully. Through the large window, I have a good view of Rainier Avenue and every so often, ...
Three: With Eyes Open
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At the halal meat store in the shopping center off Barbur Boulevard in Portland, Somali women buy small portions of goat for their families' dinners. The meat is frozen, and they carry it in their shopping bags along with other groceries, lugging them to the bus stop on the street below. ...
Four: Having the Last Word
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"In my opinion, honestly, I think we are all the same people," Dawit Nerayo confides as we discuss the differences that cause conflict among the peoples of the Horn and lead to tensions among their communities in the Pacific Northwest. ...
Five: Cultural and Economic Rivals
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While the desire for the right to one's own land fueled both the Ethiopian-Eritrean and Ethiopian-Somali wars, it is not the sole cause of arguments among members of the three communities in the Pacific Northwest. Other issues most certainly also played a role, since territorial integrity in the form of secession, independence, or irredentism cannot easily ...
Six: The Challengers Within
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The opportunity to influence generations of schoolchildren through their history textbooks represents a prize that local Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans have been quick to appreciate. Their readiness to speak out in order to establish their versions of "the truth" testifies to their awareness of story's importance. ...
Seven: Women Speak Out
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As we have seen, criticism from within can rend the social fabric of a community and present a divided face to neighbors and the world at large. When those internal critics also share one's bed and home, personal and political tensions can undercut everyday life and threaten the basic relationship on which all others depend, namely, that between man and woman. ...
Conclusion: New American Narratives
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When David Makonnen expressed the above views to me, we were sitting in a Renton coffee shop speculating about the future relationships of the three East African communities in Seattle and Portland. At this point, although it was clear that some Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans still flailed within the past's haunting cobwebs, ...
Appendix 1: Time Line (1890—2010)
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Appendix 2: Participants
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Publication Year: 2011