[dehai-news] (Washingtonpost) ERITREA: My Fathers' Daughter

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 20:11:05 EST

Sunday, March 15, 2009; Page B07
My Fathers' Daughter
By Hannah Pool. 279 pp. $25
Hannah Pool, adopted by a British academic from an orphanage in Eritrea
and raised primarily in Manchester, returned to the land of her birth to
seek out her biological father and the rest of her family. She spent
only two weeks there, so she was unable to delve into the country's
history and politics, or the lives and psyches of the numerous relatives
she found, including a sister she never knew she had. Nonetheless, the
experience was a hugely emotional one, and though "My Fathers' Daughter"
provides a bit too much dithering introspection -- What should she wear
to the first meeting with a cousin? What would he make of her smoking?
Would it be smart to have a quick drink before the encounter? -- it's a
significant and moving book.
Pool feelingly describes the jolt of meeting strangers whose features
resemble her own. She's humbled by the realization that the brother who
went with her to the orphanage has since lived a life of profound
deprivation, and yet she envies him his secure, unspoken sense of place
and identity. Her journey features a number of tartly entertaining
cultural observations on how it feels to be a black person in England
and a not-quite Eritrean in Eritrea, where the father who gave her up at
birth reproaches her for the length of her skirt. Some of the most
telling scenes occur during a bus trip to her father's village. At one
point this trendy young Londoner, who writes about fashion for the
Guardian, has to get off the bus and walk into the desolate, treeless
landscape in order to squat and pee: Pool says she was "proud of how
little fuss I made." Later she holds a baby while its mother, seated
beside her and speaking only Tigrinya, nurses its sibling. "For the rest
of the journey, the woman and I sit pretty much silently," she writes,
"occasionally swapping children as she feeds them in turn. It makes a
pleasant change to feel useful, if mute and with a squirming child on my
-- Juliet Wittman


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