Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For April: The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears

For April, we have selected Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears,
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Award to Imprisoned Eritrean Journalist

Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye has been chosen as “Journalist of the Year 2007” by Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France. The panel of judges sought to highlight not only the case of this brave journalist held in Eritrea’s appalling jails since September 2001 but also the catastrophic state of press freedom in this small Horn of Africa country. At least four journalists have died in prison in Eritrea over the last few years. The blame lies chiefly at the door of Issaias Afeworki, the highly authoritarian and obdurate president of the country since its independence in 1993.
Read the full press release from Reporters Without Borders here.
There's a photo of Seyoum at the AI Group 19 website.

AI Group 22 in Pasadena works in behalf of Estifanos Seyoum, another Eritrea prisoner of conscience held incommunicado since the 2001 crackdown. We hope that the publicity generated by this award might help to persuade the Eritrean authorities to improve their country's human rights situation or at least result in the release of information about these journalists and former government officials detained without trial or charges since 2001.

Our December Authors: Marina Aidova and Anna Horsbrugh-Porter

I wasn't expecting to find much about our author-editors, Marina Aidova and Anna Anna Horsbrugh-Porter, this month for our reading of the collection of letters, From Newbury with Love, but here's a little something...

Here's the Amnesty Magazine version of their story and Marina takes questions from activists here. Amnesty International - UK tells us how Anna came to be involved in the project. And the BBC gives the project a little coverage,

If the book, From Newbury With Love, evokes the lost worlds of the Cold War, it's also a reminder of an era when people wrote each other letters, rather than e-mails and texts.

And Marina says she regrets the lost pleasures of the letter.

"You looked at the stamp, you opened the letter, you smelt it. First, you read it very quickly, and then in the evening, when the children were in bed, my mum would take a glass of wine, light a cigarette and read and re-read and really enjoy the letter. It's physical, you see their handwriting, you keep the letters."

For those who would like a little contextual background and visual stimulus, here's an exhibition of Moscow Samizdat books and another of vintage Soviet propaganda posters.

And a bit more tangential, check out the Wikipedia enry on the Kishinev pogrom
and this memorial site and learn about a little piece of Jewish history.

For March: Unbowed

For March we have chosen Wangari Maathai's memoir, Unbowed,
In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.
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