Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Seenaa Oromia's "The In-Between"

A few days ago, I wrote about a book event in Minneapolis featuring Seena Godana-Dulla Jimjimo and her book The In-Between: The Story of African-Oromo Women and the American Experience. Today I finished reading the book and wish to comment on it.

The In-Between is a thoughtful meditation on the predicament of the oppressed and marginalized, starting with the Oromos of East Africa and incorporating women in Oromo and African society at home in Africa as well as abroad, specifically America, which the author knows first hand. In the process, The In-Between deals with other social evils, such as discrimination, prejudice, and violence.

The In-Between is also a manifesto, which outlines the author's vision of what needs to be done to solve the problems she details. She calls for educating women about their rights, solidarity between men and women in pursuit of equal rights, the abandonment of negative cultural and religious beliefs and practices which perpetuate the oppression of women.

Among the most memorable aspects of the book are accounts of the suffering the author and her family experienced in their homeland, Oromia, whose existence is overshadowed in the mind of the world by the name Ethiopia. The In-Between presents an illuminating account of the complex dynamics of Oromo organizations which have been attempting to unify and mobilize Oromos in Oromia and abroad. It shows that the Oromos are not homogeneous; they have differences which some individuals, as well as their oppressors, exploit for their own interests.

This book helps outsiders to understand aspects of the country we know as Ethiopia which are not generally known, especially the conflicts among Ethiopia's ethnic groups and the domination of the Oromos by the Abbyssinian regime.

The author was born and raised in Oromia and experienced, together with her family, relatives, and people she knew, the suffering she is writing about . She came to the USA as a teenager and soon involved herself in student organizations and Oromo diaspora politics. The idea of "the in-between" refers to people like her, who find themselves caught between two worlds.

The In-Between holds much promise. It charts the  trajectory the author has set her sights on as a passionate and thoughtful activist in the cause of the oppressed and marginalized--women, children and others--from Oromia to the U.S.A. and around the world. I learned much from this book, especially its insightful and sensitive depiction of the condition of women.

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