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Death Stalks Kettle Street
John Bowen

Return to Eritrea.

My Fathers' Daughter: A Story of Family and Belonging - Hannah Pool

Around the time I visited Eritrea I read two books - one about an Eritrean refugee making the treacherous journey out of Eritrea and the other about Hannah Pool, a British journalist who was born in a remote village in Eritrea and adopted from an orphanage, leaving a family she had never met. They complimented each other and both, in their own ways, educated me on this country that I knew so little about.

 

Hannah's mother had died giving birth to her, and her father, who already had a large family, put her into an orphanage for care. The couple who adopted her were told that her parents were dead and she was adopted into Norway and then UK, as the coloured daughter of white parents. For many years she had no idea that she had any family other than her adopted one, until, at the age of 19 she received a letter from her brother, informing her that her father was still alive. She was dumb-struck, all these years she had believed that she had no living relatives and here were a brother and father in one.
However, she didn't want to hurt her adoptive father and wasn't sure of her own feelings, so it was another 10 years until she followed up on the letter. It turned out that she had a cousin visiting London and so her first move was to meet up with him. From him she learned that she had many sisters and brothers and that her father was still living.
At the age of 29 she finally found the courage to make the journey to the land of her birth and meet her large family.

 

The trip involved a number if issues, primarily the fact that she could only communicate directly with family members who spoke English; she had only a few words in her native tongue. She also found it very strange to find that after being so obviously black amongst so many whites in her adopted country, she now melded with the huge crowd of Eritreans when she arrived at the airport - only to discover that there were things about her that they could detect and thus label her as an 'incomer', and put her into another sub-set of the population.

 

Her original plan to meet with her family in the capital, Asmara, developed into a wish to see them in their home villages and see the home where she was born. This journey into the hinterlands was my favourite part of the book, a fascinating travelogue. What she found there was eye-opening and made her think again about her wish that she had been allowed to stay with her birth family.

 

This was a fascinating story, told with raw emotion. My only issue with it was that Hannah spent a bit too long on some of the emotional issues - shall I leave this room, no, I'll just stay here, but I must go......(not a literal quote), until the repetition became irritating. Otherwise, an excellent view into adoption into a different coloured family and the reunion with family that she had long believed dead.

 

Also read:
Paradise Denied by Zekarias Kebraeb (5stars)