A new book: ‘Africa in Focus: Ethiopia’ By Paulos Milkias

ImageNew Book:Africa in Focus: Ethiopia, by Paulos Milkias,, Santa Barbara, Cal. & Oxford: England, ABC-CLIO ISBN: 1598842579, Hardcover; 2011-544p.

This book by Dr. Paulos Milkias, is intended to shatter the deep-seated stereotype of Ethiopia that has been fueled by contemporary media, which uses graphic pictures of underfed adults and children in order to project Ethiopia as a country on the edge of a chasm—a colossal basket case that is condemned to perpetually struggle for survival in futility and anguish. What that clichéd image glosses over is, according to Dr. Paulos, the clear sky, the breathtaking mountains, the precipitous escarpments and valleys, the panoramic scenery, the glorious sunshine and climate of perpetual spring, the wealth of foliage and flowers, and the pristine lakes, rivers, and forests teaming with wildlife, most of which are endemic.In Ethiopia, as the book demonstrates, there is diversity and grandeur unique in the African continent. Ethiopia, the book points out, is  a land of people with unsullied spirit of freedom and valor, of heroes and heroines who kept the country independent for thousands of years.  Readers of the book will learn that Ethiopia’s inhabitants are some of the most hospitable on the entire planet, its historical relics captivate any visitor, and its scenic landscapes are breathtaking. They will also have an opportunity to discover the incredible variety of the traditions of Ethiopia’s inhabitants, its people’s lore, and its land’s biodiversity. The author has traveled the length and breadth of Ethiopia and has gathered primary data for several of his previous books as well as this one. He also happens to be a major pre-revolution  student leader and later on government officeholder who was fortunate enough to meet and talk with Emperor Haile Selassie. Many of his reflections on the history, geography, politics, and economics of the country as portrayed in this book have been enriched by those experiences. 

Africa in Focus: Ethiopia which is thematically divided into narrative, contemporary issues, and referenceparts., is intended to benefit not only foreigners but also Ethiopians who have migrated outside their country not because they wanted to but because of the political and social adversity of the last few decades. Many Ethiopians in the Diaspora just want to close this chapter completely from their minds. Thus, they seem to have made a resolve to bring up diaspora-born children as Americans, Europeans, or Australians, oblivious to their rich heritage. The good news is that many have now  come around; they want to expose their progeny to the millennia-year-old Ethiopian history and culture. This book, the author hopes, is , a place to start to retrace their past. The monograph gives basic information about Ethiopia’s 82 ethnic groups with more emphasis on the three major ones: the Oromos (particularly their legendary fighting spirit and their capacity to assimilate which helped in their rapid migration and expansion), the Amharas, (their enormous cultural and literary contribution)  the Tigres, (their being the cradle of Ethiopian-cum African civilization).

 The volume includes narrative chapters on Ethiopia’s geography, history and economics, institutions, and society as well as contemporary issues. It attempts to provide a readable survey of Ethiopian culture from the earliest beginnings in its diverse branches: religion, language, Ge’ez and Amharic literature, music, architecture, painting and the applied arts, education, cinema, film, and sport. The narrative incorporates vital information on the hundreds-of-years-old schools of music, poetry, theology, history, and philosophy. Knowing that many readers of the book who are foreigners and young Ethiopians who are born outside their country  will at some stage travel to Ethiopia, the author has  included introductions to the country’s working language, Amharic.

The author has  also appended a few useful words and phrases in the majority language of AfanOromo, as well as the historically and culturally important medium Tigrigna. Mindful of the needs of  this targeted group, the author has carefully elucidated the practical subjects of food and etiquette. In the reference section, the author has  incorporated several sections of key information, including web sites for national and international organizations, business establishments, and cultural, educational, economic, and tourist organizations. Also included are records of the unique Ethiopian alphabet; the special national calendar; brief descriptions of historical figures and famous people, places, and events; and a comprehensive annotated bibliography, to aid more in-depth research. History Book Review has analyzed the book and has posted its  scholarly assessment on YouTube at the following URL address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZljBhjuW2Zo. 

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