Great African Reads discussion

I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
This topic is about I Didn't Do It for You
31 views
Tour d'Afrique A-L Books 2008-12 > Wrong: I Didn't Do it for You" & "Three Eritrean Plays | Eritrea (Tour D'Afrique) first read: Jan 2011

Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments I haven't got my hands on Michela Wrong's book yet (the one I intend to read) but feel free to start discussing either/both books here...


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I've ordered a copy, but I'm going to at least start by reading a book by an author from Eritrea. I'll comment as it's useful.


message 3: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I have it in hand but haven't started yet; super excited too, though!


message 4: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments I've located my copy (but haven't got it yet)!! :D


Maria Elena (maudi) I just got my copy the other day and started reading. I am really enjoying Wrong's writing style, keeps you wanting to read more, good choice!


message 6: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Maria Elena wrote: "I just got my copy the other day and started reading. I am really enjoying Wrong's writing style, keeps you wanting to read more, good choice!"

so good to hear! i've been excited since listening to the interview with her. i wanted to get going on the book today but haven't yet...the days not quite over! :D


Andrea | 660 comments Okay, I'm going to start the book today, even though I've got a bunch of others I'm trying to finish. I love online library renewals!


message 8: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I started yesterday. It moves right along....


message 9: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments I'm only going to get it next week and I'm determined to not make this one the first book in 2011 that I start but not finish!! ;)


message 10: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Muphyn wrote: "I'm only going to get it next week and I'm determined to not make this one the first book in 2011 that I start but not finish!! ;)"

you'll get sucked in and you won't notice the pages flying by, i swear! you WILL finish it! :D


message 11: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments :D thanks for your encouragement, you're just fabulous! :D


message 12: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i've just been reading some more and it's so fascinating. i am wanting to read The Danakil Diary: Journeys Through Abyssinia, 1930-34 now. and another ancient book that has been translated and annotated but i'm blanking on the name.


Andrea | 660 comments Yes, I was just thinking about Danakil Diary today, but I'd have to request it from inter library loan. I'm tempted to buy it, but am overbudget for my book habit already this month!


message 14: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Are there any cheap used copies around?


message 15: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Heidke | 12 comments I just bought a kindle copy for my android phone for $10.99. This will make the book more accessible for me, so hopefully I can work on my new years resolution of reading more books this year! This will also be the first book I've attempted to read on my phone, so we'll see how that goes.


Maria Elena (maudi) It reads just like a longer "The New Yorker" Article. That makes it an easy read, but at times, I think...wait, what year is she talking about? Did we just jump ten years in one page?


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Still waiting for my copy.


message 18: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Maria Elena wrote: "It reads just like a longer "The New Yorker" Article. That makes it an easy read, but at times, I think...wait, what year is she talking about? Did we just jump ten years in one page?"

you know, i hadn't been bothered by the style at all until you mentioned that. :D

and now i realize i'm a little fuzzy on some things and i'll need to go back and skim some parts to straighten certain details out in my brain.

even so, i like how she moves in and out of the contemporary time period and i really like how she is able to incorporate Eritrean peoples' thoughts on events.


message 19: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Sho wrote: "Still waiting for my copy."

well, that kinda stinks. i hope you get it soon!


Andrea | 660 comments This is my second time reading the book and I agree that the second time I am picking up time sequences more easily. Her writing style is really engaging, though. Then, right after reading about the battle for the ridge between the Brits and Italians and all that terrible close quarters fighting, my teenagers and I watched "My Son, Jack" about Rudyard Kipling and his son during WWI. I had to leave the room because I was crying so hard my kids were getting embarrassed. Not exactly an uplifting combination. I wouldn't recommend the two in close sequence unless you like to cry.


Kevin | 7 comments I just joined this group and by coincidence I recently finished this book. I work in US refugee resettlement and picked up the book because one of the latest populations to come as refugees to the United States is Eritreans. As far as I can gather, it's the only non-academic book widely available on the country.

The basic thesis of the book is a succession of outside interests -- Italy, Ethiopia, Britain, the US -- have used Eritrea to its own ends without regard to its people. The irony is the book ends up being more about these would-be colonial powers in Eritrea than about the Eritreans themselves. We are told a good deal about the geography of the country, but little about the cultures and people of Eritrea. Nonetheless, it's a quick read and worthwhile.


message 22: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Welcome Kevin and thank you for joining in! i'm only about half-way through the book, but i am getting that as well, that the book is heavily weighted toward the outside powers (or whatever) than the eritreans themselves. nevertheless, i am finding many excellent eye-opening passages that do incorporate the eritrean perspective. i feel like that is her rhythm through each historical event: this is what the westerners wanted, this is what the eritreans wanted, this is what the westerners did, this is how the eritreans thought about it and depending on the historical event, this is what the eritreans did.

even if it gives the book a bit of a western bent, i do think it's important for readers to see the western attitudes toward the people of eritrea and ethiopia. sure we are aware of these attitudes since we are familiar with them in the context of other countries and peoples, but i really like the way michela wrong presents them in the eritrean context with documentation.

our other selection for eritrea is Three Eritrean Plays so please join us for that, too, kevin!


Kevin | 7 comments Thanks for the warm welcome, Marieke. I look forward to the discussion on this forum.

As many (most?) African languages were not written prior to European colonialism and there was no sense of linear historical time as bounded in history, it's no surprise that most writers begin their historical time of African places with when Westerners arrived, and leads to heavy use of texts by westerners in Africa. This is obviously understandable, but it tends to spill over into cliche. If another writer uses Conrad's "Hearth of Darkness" as an extended metaphor of Africa -- as Wrong does in her earlier book on Congo -- I'm going to throw up my fufu.

What's the alternative? To expressly confirm the lack of African voices available before a certain period as Hochschild does in "King Leopold's Ghost" and to at least try to express the events in some sort of local culture and belief -- or, perhaps better, admit you can't. Wrong doesn't do any of this. She does at least give the narrative over to local players in the last third of the book dealing with the conflict with Ethiopia.

I'm really glad you gave Eritrea the spotlight. It's a country that doesn't get much mention in the international press, even as Afwerki is quickly becoming one of the most ruthless and obtuse of African dictators.


Kevin | 7 comments As for "Three Eritrean Plays," I'd love to read it, but $20 for 60 pages... I know I'm coming across as some curmudgeon...


Andrea | 660 comments I think Wrong has certain strengths and weaknesses as a writer. She seems to be primarily a journalist who is interested in history. I've read all three of her books and, generally, she writes about modern politics and economy. I really like her work, but I agree that one isn't going to get much of an appreciation for the lifestyles and attitudes of the "ordinary" person, except that usually they respond to being screwed over pretty much as anybody might; they cope as best they can and get rather cynical. When we were looking for Eritrea selections, we did have a hard time finding much to choose from.


Andrea | 660 comments I read "Crisis Caravan" last week and one of the examples of foreign aid working in the interests of a violent aggressor was the aid given to support refugees in govt. "peace villages" in Ethiopia. It was interesting to see the same subject discussed by Wrong.


message 27: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i had initially felt really enthusiastic about Wrong's book but now that i've got just one chapter left, i feel a bit overwhelmed, like a can't process what i've just read...maybe since it's my first stab at reading about the area. where does she discuss "peace villages"? i'm not recalling that... :(


message 28: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Kevin wrote: "As for "Three Eritrean Plays," I'd love to read it, but $20 for 60 pages... I know I'm coming across as some curmudgeon..."

indeed; this may end up being a problematic selection.

i don't know if you've had a chance to poke around a lot to get a sense of how we do our "tour," but basically we are "traveling" around in alphabetical order and in the middle of february we'll open a thread for people to make suggestions of things to read for ethiopia. we like to find fiction written by a native of whatever country we are visiting, but it's not always possible. in any case, we make suggestions and then we set up a poll and vote. lately we have had ties, which is why we have two selections for eritrea. however, it's *not* required to read the selection(s) in order to participate in the discussions. :D


Andrea | 660 comments It's mentioned on page 232 in the chapter on Kagnew. I think it's also described somewhere else, but I haven't found it again. THis is my second time reading the book, and I'm definitely getting more out of it the second time around.


message 30: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i can definitely picture myself reading this again and getting a lot more out of it. i enjoyed it, but i felt like i was totally in the moment--nothing was sinking it, that i know of. i kind of feel like i just got thwacked over the head. of course, i knew basically nothing of substance about eritrea before i read it.


Kevin | 7 comments E-gads. I missed Algeria. Tahar Djaout's "The Last Summer of Reason" is one of my favorite books.

Maybe the next tour...


message 32: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
oh yeah! we want to keep going around and around as long as people are interested and goodreads exists...except next time i think we'll do it by region, rather than alphabetically.

it's fine to revamp discussions, too, so if you feel compelled to post at the algeria thread, by all means, do so! also there is a MENA group that just got animated and we are doing a "cruise" over there. we are in North Africa right now (just getting started) and Algeria is our featured country. Djaout's book wasn't selected, though...in fact, i don't recall that it was on the poll.

I co-moderate that group with an Egyptian friend who is also a member here. she does most of the work, actually. :D


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)


message 34: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Sho wrote: "I've started Heart of Fire: One Girl's Extraordinary Journey from Child Soldier to Soul Singer by Eritrean Senait G. Mehari."

how are you liking it?


message 35: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
sooo...as a point of discussion, i was wondering if anyone wants to take a stab at summing up what the chief causes of the conflict were? i'm still feeling foggy...

italy snatched up eritrea. ethiopia needed access to the ocean. WW2 happened and Britain occupied the area, kicked Italy out. some stuff happened that led to the unification of eritrea and ethiopia (with ethiopia in charge) even though that is not what eritrea wanted...

and then a bunch of fighting.

and the U.S. and the Soviet Union got into a face-off, each taking sides with one and then switching somehow? someone clear up for me what happened with the U.S.-U.S.S.R. dynamic and the conclusion to the war in the early 1990s, please? probably i should reread, but this is one of those parts that set my head spinning just a little.

what did the U.S. want to have happen?


Andrea | 660 comments As I'm trying to go back through it, I'm finding the time sequences confusing. Like, when did people first realize that Eritrea had the amazing physical properties for radio broadcasting and receiving?


message 37: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "As I'm trying to go back through it, I'm finding the time sequences confusing. Like, when did people first realize that Eritrea had the amazing physical properties for radio broadcasting and recei..."

i don't have my book with me, but i want to guess that it was during WW2...


Andrea | 660 comments Yes, I think you're right, but that's an example of a place where she sort of jumps around in time, making it harder to follow exactly what the sequence of events is.

I just got "Danakil Diary" from interlibrary loan and it looks great. Thesiger has such a great voice.


message 39: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
when are you going to start it? i am so overwhelmed with the number of books i have to read, but i've wanted to read that for quite awhile now. since Djibouti! and i have it in hand again. maybe i should read a chapter per lunch hour.


Andrea | 660 comments Danakil Diary reads fairly quickly, but it really is a trip diary. I miss Thesiger's commentary that I enjoyed in other things by him. Although I like that his dad comes into this, as I remember his father from my reading about the Belgian Congo.


message 41: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
maybe i'll continue to procrastinate on it until i've read more background stuff, then. hm. i really loved Arabian Sandsand was hoping for something like that. oh well!

i have Three Plays at home now. i was actually able to get it from work! i'll read it soon...it's really short, but that doesn't mean it will be "easy" to read. has anyone else gotten their hands on it?

i wonder how easy it would be for people to get it through their public library...i remember Kevin saying he is not about to purchase a 68-page book and i'm sure he's not alone in that.


message 42: by Maria Elena (last edited Jan 25, 2011 10:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maria Elena (maudi) Marieke wrote: "maybe i'll continue to procrastinate on it until i've read more background stuff, then. hm. i really loved Arabian Sandsand was hoping for something like that. oh well!

i have Three ..."


I haven't been able to get Three Plays either. My local Library does not have it (and I live in a big Eritrean Community neighborhood), and I will most likely not buy it. I did finally finish Wrong's book. I kept putting off the last third of the book and read other books during that time. But I'm finally glad it's finished.

So it's my understanding that US was on Ethiopia's side when Selassie was President. Because the EPLF was a socialist/communist rebel group, the US did not want them having control of the region or the Red Sea Ports. The US figured it was better that a capitalist Ethiopia have control, that way no Soviet Bloc country could have that region. Then when the Derg came to power, Ethiopia switched over to a Socialist Government, thus getting the Soviet Union's support.The Soviet Union "supported" Eritrean rebels before this. But since it now supported Ethiopia they saw no reason to support a smaller rebel group. I'll have to go back to the book to understand what the US wanted. Not sure on that either. I don't think the US was at all sure of what its role in Africa should be at that time . But the Soviet Union's support of Ethiopia was more substantial than that of the US's support in military aid. As a result, the EPLF was able to supply its troops with all the stolen surplus.

But then the TPLF helped weaken the Derg government with the help of the EPLF. At the same time, the Soviet union was starting to collapse. Liberation of Eritrea occurred in 1991, same year the DERG fled to Ethiopia, no longer able to stay in power because Ethiopia was being weakened by EPLF and internal conflicts.

Maybe someone can clarify, I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.


message 43: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Seems like we are all fuzzy on the same things! We still have February so I think I'll revisit the last part of the book in a couple of weeks to see if I can make heads or tails of it so that it sticks in my brain. Also perhaps our upcoming trip to Ethiopia in march and April will help.


message 44: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth (elizabethinzambia) | 73 comments Would it be helpful if we got Michela Wrong to join our discussion of her book? When we read her book on Zaire in my local book club we invited her to join our discussion (by phone) which she graciously did. We all really enjoyed the experience. It might be considerably different with an online group, but I am happy to try to pursue it, if there is interest.


message 45: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
That would be positively amazing, Elizabeth. It would neat also to talk with her about her experiences writing the book.


message 46: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth (elizabethinzambia) | 73 comments Okay- since you are the Chief Chatterbox, I will take it as the word of authority and I will pursue it. How would we best structure this? Please advise.


message 47: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
If she's amenable, ask her what she would prefer:a specified date/time with pre-submitted questions, a specified date/time but freeform questions from members, or a very informal discussion here just as we usually do things.

She'll have to become a member, though...if she does not want to be a member perhaps someone (you?) could correspond with her with our questions and report back to us.

And if you're not comfortable arranging this, or you don't have time, feel free to put her in touch with me after you've made contact.


message 48: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth (elizabethinzambia) | 73 comments I am happy to follow up and will let you know where things go from there.


message 49: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "I am happy to follow up and will let you know where things go from there."

Great!!


Andrea | 660 comments Wow, that would be terrific!


« previous 1
back to top