Do you like writing and/or receiving personal letters? It’s a dying art now, with email and text messages the norm. I still write letters to a couple of friends, although arthritic fingers and lack of practice make hand writing difficult! None of my missives reads like the Berlin Manifesto, the long letter – more like a treatise than a letter – that the G13 wrote to their President.
President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea did not take kindly to the reproofs implicit in this letter, written to him 21 years ago by a group of his countrymen and women. The ramifications and repercussions of the letter, the Berlin Manifesto, have been far reaching. My book, The Eritrean Letter Writers: Dear Mr President, just published by DIO Press, takes you inside the process of the letter’s drafting and details the fallout.
Readers who value quality narrative/creative nonfiction will appreciate my book. This is fact-based storytelling, about real people, their conversations and deliberations reimagined. I envisage an educated general audience, an international audience, keen to know more about Eritrea and its troubled history. An editor, checking the MS for cultural accuracy, said that the book is educational. I like that endorsement.
This is a quote from one of the letter writers: “There is a thirst for reading, especially among the young Eritrean generation at home and abroad, and when it comes from a politically neutral, believable author it is more credible.”
I want the young to embrace their ancestral country and be proud of what men & women, like the letter writers, attempted to bring about change. The book adds to their legacy. It is written with an engaging immediacy which makes it easy and interesting for readers of all ages.
This year, 2021, marks many significant milestones in tragic, heroic Eritrea: Independence Day 24 May, 30th anniversary; Martyrs’ Day 20 June, 30th anniversary; Revolution Day I September, 60th anniversary; Day of Darkness [when free press ended and many journalists were imprisoned] 18 September, 20th anniversary. My timely book backgrounds it all through the eyes of those who lived it. The Letter Writers opens a new space in understanding Eritrea, a small but often forgotten African country. I hope that my book contribute greater recognition and respect for Eritrea.
I also hope that the book, which honors courageous men and women, is an inspiration for writers to tell the stories that matter in the world’s dialogue. I want there to be more literary voices heard about lesser known people and cultures.
Podcast: Listen to “An Extract From The Eritrean Letter Writers: Dear Mr President” by Stephany Steggall: