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Gratitude in Low Voices

The Oxford dictionary defines the word gratitude as the act of being thankful and waiting to express it.

What exactly is the author of Gratitude in Low Voices grateful of? … Is it the angelic patience of a mother who walked back and forth from the village to town to encourage her children’s educational endeavor? Is it the aunty who lubricates her nephew’s and niece’s feet with oil to make them “shine” as much as those of Asmarinos? Or is it the committed family friend taking over the father’s role in his absence?

Indeed, in this book and just in this land of our beautiful people, it takes a whole village to raise a child!

Gratitude in Low Voices is an interesting book as the author, while presenting reminiscences of his own life puts in context the Eritrean life style… at least that of three decades ago, when a typical Eritrean communal life was in its most virgin forms and when the unity of the people outshined the atrocity inflicted on their days by colonizing forces.

The author presents the reader with a deep acquaintance of our culture. The question raised by the author himself, for example ‘What’s in a name?’, is one of my favorite concentrations of the book. Turning the last page from right to left and donning through the last words of the book I, too, was grateful in a low voice. Grateful and proud that I am part of a society that literally worships its children and young ones. Clearly, it is not an exaggeration; it has valid evidence. In fact, it all starts with a paramount attention to the name! There is nothing arcane nor flamboyant to it. It is just a humble echo of what Eritreans really are when defined in the milieu of mankind.

The history of the Eritrean people, and the story of Dawit and his family as an instance, depicts societal values that in between the lines read ‘safety’, ‘peace’, ‘altruism’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘forgiveness’ and ‘harmony’. What the author includes in his memoires is basically equivalent for most Eritreans. Maybe in some other parts of the world people evolve in the concept of individualism; whereas in the Eritrean framework, it is the opposite: one house hold is very similar to the other.

The characters mentioned in the book are easy to relate with. Which is why Gratitude in Low Voices resonates with the history of Eritrean families and the nation.

Despite the fact that the author’s journey does not include the post-independence period, and the unfortunate ongoing harassments, the book is truly a mirror of times.

“Too young to join the armed struggle” this is a young immigrant’s journey from Eritrea all the way to the US. Certainly, not one with a business class air ticket. Rather one long, long walk amidst the hurdles of human smuggling.

This is an account to which many Eritreans abroad can closely relate to. I raise here a bitter sweet accusation. The initiative taken by Dawit should be the job of many more. If people here were busy dying for independence and now sweating for national development… Where are our Achebes?

The little in number but great literary productions written so far are mostly in Tigrigna and not in any foreign languages. …Hidri Publishers is a great example. Local writers don’t deny the presence of more precious accounts that need to be treasured, incontrovertible efforts, are on the place. But, not many Eritrean writers write in English. Besides journalists of the Eritrean English Newspaper. We have Mr. Alemseghed Tesfai, one of our greatest, my favorite. And the sole Eritrean female novelist writing in English is Rahel Asghedom.

This job should have been the job of Eritreans who speak and write in English or any foreign language for that matter: the Eritrean diaspora. For them to narrate the accounts of your fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in languages that you speak and write a millions times better than Tigrigna? With all due respect and love; I am not here to belittle the undertakings of Eritrean diaspora in foiling foreign conspiracies. However until the day Eri youth are able to sit back, relax and start writing their own piece of diary …. the job remains vacant hovering over you; the best candidates for now.

Of course, not everybody writes. But there is so much to be translated. Eritrea is the epiphany of a shared history, also highlighted in the book Gratitude in Low Voices. As a matter of fact, throughout the book, we come across staged goodwill of many people who intersected Dawit’s journey, with each an impact for the better.

What Dawit Ghebremichael has done with his memoire is a good example of contribution.

Sophia Tesfariam, columnist and an Eritrean activist in the US writes on her book review of Gratitude in Low Voices published in April in the journal Eritrea Profile, “His –Dawit Ghebremichael book, is an important milestone and no one expects to write a memoir at such a young age unless there is something significant that needs to be told. And there is… beyond Dawit’s personal journey, a need to tell Eritrea’s history…albeit in small chapters, through personal stories. Here we are given the opportunity to go behind the headlines, to the home, to the villages, and revisit history.”

Even if the author himself claims his book is “just” an act of following the Eritrean adage which says “To those who have done you favors, either return the favor or tell others about their good deeds”, it is an admirable beginning of exhibiting Eritrean literary works in the western world.

When I first heard of a book authored by an Eritrean on the American market I was proud and honored. I struggled to find the book but lady luck assisted –you know it is not easy to get a hard copy of the book all the way from there. Once in my hands, I shared it with friends, colleagues and family. They felt the exact same sparks and goose bumps as me. We all are grateful. This is our thank you in a low voice for beautifully and successfully putting our story out there for the world to read and acknowledge. We hope Dawit gets to be an example for many hidden writers to come forward. We obviously can’t wait for more of your publications, Congratulations Dawit!

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