Haile, Rebecca G. 1965-

views updated

Haile, Rebecca G. 1965-


Born 1965, in Ethiopia; moved to Minnesota, 1976; married. Education: Graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School.


Home—New York, NY.




Held at a Distance: An Ethiopian Journey, Academy Chicago Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2007.


Rebecca G. Haile is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, but her earliest roots speak less of privilege and education and more of fear and political unrest. Born in Ethiopia, Haile was forced to flee the country with her family when she was eleven years old, following a major shift in the political power in that nation. A military coup led to the removal of the emperor, and Haile's father, a respected professor at the university in Addis Ababa, was shot and injured during the upheaval when soldiers appeared to arrest him for his associations with the local Orthodox church. Haile's father attempted to hold off the soldiers for as long as he could, but with only a single gun and no additional ammunition, he was eventually forced to attempt to escape. The shot that hit him came very close to his heart and injured his spine. However, that fateful event was merely the catalyst that sent the family into exile. Haile and her parents moved to Minnesota, where her father was eventually able to resume his teachings in Semitic languages, but for Haile, just a child, it was difficult to acclimate to her new country and to leave the memories of her early years behind.

In Held at a Distance: An Ethiopian Journey, Haile recounts the story of her family's flight from Ethiopia, describing in detail her fear and her memories of the uprising, her father's injury, and the culture shock upon reaching the United States. However, she also tells of her return to Ethiopia twenty-five years later, the first in her family to return to their homeland, and her impressions of her native country as finally seen through the eyes of an adult. Joslyn Jones, in a review for Library Journal, remarked that "this engaging read provides a compelling face to the story of Ethiopia today." A reviewer for the Africa News Service noted of Haile's effort: "She offers a clear-eyed analysis of the country today, and her keen observations and personal experiences will resonate with readers." Samuel Kinde, reviewing for MediaEthiopia.com, noted: "Rebecca's visit to the family house built by her parents where the father fought off the Dergue soldiers forms the most intense part of her narration…. Rebecca tries to retrace personal painful memories and along the way engages her readers to a degree few books have managed." In an interview for News & Notes, Haile explained her outlook, having reconnected with her native land: "I think that we are able to redefine what it means to be Ethiopian because of the number of immigrants and the number of Ethiopians born here who feel a tie to Ethiopia has sort of redefined what it means."



Haile, Rebecca G., Held at a Distance: An Ethiopian Journey, Academy Chicago Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2007.


Africa News Service, June 12, 2007, "New Memoir Follows Author's Rediscovery of Her Homeland."

Library Journal, April 1, 2007, Joslyn Jones, review of Held at a Distance, p. 98.

News & Notes, July 24, 2007, Farai Chideya, "Return to Ethiopia," radio broadcast transcript.


MediaEthiopia.com,http://www.ethiopians.com/ (March 12, 2007), review of Held at a Distance.

Spero News,http://www.speroforum.com/ (July 20, 2007), Ezana Habte-Gabr, review of Held at a Distance.

Tadias,http://www.tadias.com/ (December 8, 2007), author profile.