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I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  733 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Scarred by decades of conflict and occupation, the craggy African nation of Eritrea has weathered the world's longest-running guerrilla war. The dogged determination that secured victory against Ethiopia, its giant neighbor, is woven into the national psyche, the product of cynical foreign interventions. Fascist Italy wanted Eritrea as the springboard for a new, racially p ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published January 17th 2005)
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Aug 28, 2007 Liza rated it really liked it
Before I read this book I knew absolutely nothing about Eritrea. I still don't know enough, but I am glad this was my introduction. Despite the cover and title it does not toe the typical "Oh, poor Africans; let's throw subsidized food and expensive pharmaceuticals at them and then all will be well" line. It does not paint such a simple story, rather it tells the tale of a nation that has been required to fight everyone: the Italians, the Ethiopians, the U.S., the British, the UN--the list goes ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Remy rated it liked it
One of my favorite passages:

"Go to the edge of the escarpment, on the outskirts of town, and you will find yourself on the lip of an abyss. You are at eye level with eagles that launch themselves like suicides into the voice, leaping into a blue haze into which mountain peaks, far-off valleys and distant sea all blur. at this altitude, only the most boisterous clouds succeed in rising high enough to drift over the city. Pinned down by gravity, they form instead a sulky cumulus eiderdown that bar
I can't remember the last time I had such mixed feelings as a book. Its not that Wrong is a bad writer, or that her narrative of Eritrea seems untruthful or dishonest. There's something about the inferences she draws from casual statements, and her over-reliance on rumour and myth that detract greatly from her natural skills as a writer. There's a little too much influence of the journalist reporting whatever she hears, and a too little of the researcher seeking to check their facts. One glaring ...more
This was a lot more difficult than i had anticipated and at the moment i don't feel like i've retained much information. i think i'm going to need a long processing period. initially i thought this book would rival King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial Africa for me, but i don't think that actually bore out. During my reading of Hochschild's book, i felt more and more comfortable with the material as the story progressed. I can't say the same for this book. I d ...more
Nov 14, 2007 Talia rated it really liked it
This book attempts to answer the ongoing debate about who is at fault for the social, cultural and most importantly economic suffering of Africa. Michela Wrong's latest book illustrates the problems seen in Eritrea to make some kind of sense of whats going on. The book essentially spends the greater part of the book pointing fingers at former Italian and British colonialists, the UN and the cold war superpowers. She also mentions the failures of Haile Salisse and Mengistu did more bad than good. ...more
Apr 16, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Monica Ali (via the Guardian Book Review)
Like one of the other reviewers below, I picked up this book to learn more about Eritrea after starting an asylum case with an Eritrean client. Unfortunately, this book isn't *really* about Eritrea; it's about other countries' actions in Eritrea. Only the last two chapters are devoted to post-Independence, while entire chapters are devoted to Sylvia Pankhurst (along with three pictures!), rowdy American behavior at Kagnew Station, Ethiopia, etc. There was some generality but very little detail a ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it
The fact that this simply is a readable history of Eritrea makes the book great, because there really are not very many books on the subject (at least if you're going the Amazon-search route). Michela Wrong is a great journalist, and this introductory book finds a pretty solid thesis: Eritrea has been repeatedly screwed by a happy and obnoxious host of different countries over the last century+. Another reviewer compared Eritrea to District 13 in the Hunger Games, and I can't top that analogy; t ...more
Oct 17, 2014 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after volunteering in the Eritrean refugee community and became facinated and shocked by the gripping telling of the history of this country. The book details the colonial occupation of Eritrea by Italy and subsequent misuse by Britain, US and Russia as well as decades of guerilla warfare with Ethiopia. When independence is finally achieved the leadership is tyrannical. It is very well written with lots of interviews and insights into the Eritrean ethos. The author is a for ...more
Michael Gerald
An interesting read about the Horn of Africa in general, with Ethiopia and Eritrea as the focus. The story of Eritrea is an irony, as the country that was once victimized is now a victimizer, as it persecutes Christians and other opposition to its repressive, Stalinist-like government, making true Dr. Jose Rizal's words: What good is independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?
A lot of the events in this book took place during my lifetime… I was even old enough to read newspapers for some of it, yet I had no idea that most of it was happening! The last 8 chapters or so of this book were captivating beginning at the chapter entitled “Death of the Lion” and especially the description of living and fighting conditions in the Nakfa… reminded me of kibbutz! (Actually ironic that the Soviets were supporting Mengistu’s ‘Marxist’ regime against an army that was living the soc ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Nathaniel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, nonfiction
"I Didn't Do It For You" is one of the best works of historical nonfiction that I have ever read; it stands head and shoulders above other works on African history--with the sole exception of "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild--especially for its rootedness in the perspective of superbly selected individuals and its complete avoidance of sentimentality. Wrong almost entirely eschew foregrounding her own judgments and interpretations in favor of allowing well researched documents and memor ...more
Sep 10, 2011 Lucius rated it really liked it
Eritrea is a country that tends to be forgotten in global discussions, but there is so much history that comes from this part of the world that it's important that people know something about the country. Before reading this book, I was very ignorant about the people and the politics of the region. Now, I feel like I have a sense of what's happened there and want to find other sources of material to help me learn more. Thank you, Ms. Wrong for writing this book and bringing light to a piece of t ...more
Sorin Hadârcă
Sep 16, 2014 Sorin Hadârcă rated it really liked it
Even for a person that isn't into the history of Eritrea it is hugely educational to learn how a small nation can fight its way to freedom and screw up because of its own leaders.
Aug 02, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this book before I went to visit Ethiopia as I thought it may give me some idea of the political strife of the region. And it didn't disappoint me. Wrong's analysis is riveting and passionate, the historic reason for Eritrea being an independent country explained in detail in a way as to keep the reader hooked till the very end. Finally a decent historic book on Eritrea with a modern feel to it.
Apr 25, 2016 Patrdr rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I learned a lot but feel I need to take what I've learned with a grain of salt.
The book is very readable. I wouldn't have minded it being a bit duller. It is anecdote heavy, which is its strength and maybe also its weakness. Not knowing in advance very much about Eritrea I would have liked a little more conventional demographics-economics to provide some context for the stories.
The author talks a lot about True Believers, westerners who adopt and idoli
Marianna Jędrzejczyk
Mar 12, 2016 Marianna Jędrzejczyk rated it really liked it
This is a very important book. It took me a long time to finish it, mostly because I had to concentrate really hard - I simply knew next to nothing about Eritrea's history so had LOTS to learn. It was a very valuable (and depressing) history lesson, and I'm glad I got to know this small but incredibly proud nation with a rich history and culture. I certainly understand now why so many Eritreans are desperate to get out of their country and make their way to Europe. There might not be an open war ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Roger rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Eritrea has had a hard time. This book describes the staggering tenacity of this Horn of Africa nation during its' struggles against just about everyone, emerging triumphant near the end of the century only to have its' charismatic war leader turn tyrant. Wrong does it again.
Dec 30, 2011 Felicity rated it it was amazing
Eye-opening. Fascinating and shocking. Awe-inspiring people! Well-written, gripping. Am extremely curious to go there and see where this incredible history took place...
Fred Rose
Jul 26, 2015 Fred Rose rated it really liked it
History of Eritrea. If you are familiar with The Hunger Games, Eritrea is District 13. Rebels living a spartan life, some of it underground, dedicated to overthrowing the evil overlords (in this case Ethiopia). Except then the rebel leader just becomes evil himself. Alas in this story, there is no Katnis Everdeen to murder the rebel leader before it comes to that. A very good book, though the author is clearly slanted to the side of Eritrea, though it is hard to not root for them given how they ...more
Sep 21, 2013 AJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, eritrea
A few weeks ago I thought, "I don't know nearly enough about Eritrea" so I made it a point to search out the book at the library. I got lucky enough to find it there. Since I get paid to know a lot about Africa, I thought it was about time for me to learn more about the country.

I am definitely glad I did. The history of everything is so much different than I ever thought or imagined. The most recent book I read that even mentions the Eritrea issue was "There is No Me Without You," a book about a

May 19, 2010 Thaths rated it really liked it
Back in 1993 when I was working part-time in the college cafeteria to pay my way through university I met a fellow student who said she was from Erithrea. I remember being surprised when she told me that Erithrea had fought for and won independence from Ethiopia. Being brought up with LiveAid and images of the famine in Ethiopia in the late 80's my thoughts were "Hmmm. A country that was occupied by Ethiopia must be someone worse off than poor, starving Ethiopia."

The next I heard of Erithrea was
Bookmarks Magazine

Wrong, an Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, is no stranger to African politics. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001) covered Zaire's brutal history; this book attempts to put Eritrea in the public conscience. While chronicling each stage of the nation's history, Wrong creates lively profiles and successfully dissects geopolitical rivalries. Highly readable, the most compelling parts address the colonial and postwar eras, when the U.N. failed to act against Ethiopian repression. Other

Nov 30, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
This is journalistic/popular history and political analysis at its best. Michela Wrong is one of the most respected British journalists covering Africa, has spent years in the Congo area and the Horn of Africa and writes beautifully with a sure grasp of the telling detail.

She does the heavy lifting of research in both primary and secondary sources that she combines seamlessly with her work on the ground, speaking with and interviewing citizens of Eritrea from those around the president (possibl
Jul 05, 2013 Stefanie rated it liked it
Michela Wrong is a superb writer who has chronicled a history that few know, yet all should become familiar with. Se tells the story of Eritrea across many decades of colonialism, freedom fighting and so-called post-colonial rule. Many myths are put to bed in this book, and the reader will be rewarded with a more accurate an in-depth history than can be found elsewhere. The book isn't dry either because she weaves emotion and an ability to see events from multiple perspectives into the narrative ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
I knew nothing whatsoever about Eritrea before reading this book. There must be something about the country that has made it cursed to a widespread anonymity.

After reading this book I emerged with an extremely clear picture of Eritrea's history, struggles and subsequent plight. It made for an extremely good read.

Mike Staresinic
A devastating look at international diffidence to former colonies and newly independent countries. Out of the wreckage of Mussolini's fantasies of African Empire, with the connivance of the UK, and the malign neglect of the US, Eritrea was left to its fate at the hands of a self-centered Ethiopian tyrant. Wrong's writing is rich, detailed, and empathetic. Spoiler alert: do look not for redemption or an uplifting ending to Eritrea's ongoing tragedy.
David Smith
Nov 27, 2014 David Smith rated it really liked it
Now what. Michela Wrong has made me want to go to Eritrea. This book has helped me to understand why Eritreans in general and Issayas Afewerki in particular tend to be rather stubborn. They had to be. The world lets them down with almost predictable regularity.
Apr 16, 2016 Jake rated it it was ok
Two stars for getting to learn a lot about Eritrea, but otherwise pretty "meh". This was a disorganized, entirely anecdotal / miscellaneous collection of stories about Eritrean history. Over-written and over-generalized, for example:
Humility seems unlikely, but Eritreans no longer assume they know the answers to Africa's problems. As their present becomes murkier, they are losing the black-and-white certainties of the past. (389)
Such writing, with its eye-roll-inducing cliches and generalities,
Shalon Montgomery
Jan 01, 2016 Shalon Montgomery rated it really liked it
The only reason this book isn't a five for me is because I have read a few books I've enjoyed a little more. Wrong told the history of Eritrea in a compelling and unbiased manner. One minute she will have you cheering for someone then two chapters later you are shaking your head at the very same person. There is a thin line between purpose and obsession and her words paint a clear picture of it. The only thing I disliked about the book was sometime I got annoyed by her description of things. It ...more
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Half-Italian, half-British, Michela Wrong was born in 1961. She grew up in London and took a degree in Philosophy and Social Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge and a diploma in journalism at Cardiff.

She joined Reuters news agency in the early 1980s and was posted as a foreign correspondent to Italy, France and Ivory Coast. She became a freelance journalist in 1994, when she moved to then-Zaire a
More about Michela Wrong...

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