Ethiopia – a country conjuring images of ancient civilizations
and the birthplace of humanity; of long distance runners and coffee beans; the oldest independent African nation.
These images are commonly contrasted in the media with
those of disease, starvation, and poverty––the media narrative of Ethiopia is
one of deprivation and desperation.
At Tsehai Publishers, we wish to present a different
Ethiopian narrative––that of the individual. Through these individuals we hope
to find the narrative of the future within the context of the present, the
fight for tomorrow happening today.
Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow, our most recent project and our first coffee table book, presents this narrative
through firsthand accounts of extraordinary Ethiopians seizing their moment, building meaningful lives, and re-inventing their presence on a complex world stage.
The stories presented in this book are those of immigrants, expatriates,
deportees, orphans, and refugees. Of those who chose academia, science, food,
medicine, art, media, law, business, and music as means to achieve something greater
than themselves. Of those who seek to distinguish themselves not just as
individuals, but as members of a global community with a proud heritage.
Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow presents a series of
inspirational, intimate profiles, providing readers a chance to see the courage
and triumphs of some of the brightest
leaders of the Ethiopian diaspora. Many found themselves isolated in new
countries after being removed from their homeland. Through it all,
these individuals exhibited incredible bravery––their lives are
remarkable tales of personal triumph that illustrate the importance of
individual histories. Their stories are at once intimate and universal.
For those with no connection to Ethiopia, the book provides a perfect gateway to this complex, fascinating culture. For many with a connection to the country, it represents a form of justice, a
voice for the Ethiopian people. For parents and communities that nurtured these
individuals, a testament to their own achievement. For young readers, a dose of
We believe you will love this book. We also believe the stories speak for themselves. Here are
a few previews of some of the individuals profiled in Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow:
Please see our FAQ
section for more project specifics.
Electron Kebebew: Contending with Cancer
Dreams of becoming a chemical engineer changed for Electron the moment his nephew was born with a congenital heart and esophageal defect. As an undergrad studying chemical engineering at UCLA, Electron spent time with his nephew undergoing treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. “Being there,” he says, “I realized that perhaps I wanted to be in medicine instead of engineering.” This decision started Electron on a path that would lead him to become one of the top endocrine surgeons and researchers in the world.
Wayna Wondwossen: From Political Speechwriter to Grammy-Nominated Musician
The decision to put away her business suit and pick up a microphone was not the practical path Wayna Wondwossen was accustomed to following. Going into politics was simply a case of doing something “safe.” “I kind of went with the flow and did what was expected of me,” Wayna explains. Despite rising to the ranks of speechwriter during the Clinton administration, she could not let go of her musical ambitions. It was not her dream to simply craft words that would be spoken by others to achieve political objectives. She longed to write words that were uplifting, that people would want to hear over and over again.
Dr. Sossina M. Haile:
On the Frontier of Discovery
Scientist and professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at Caltech, Dr. Sossina Haile says her driving question, and the question she frequently poses to other scientists, is: “As you add to the body of knowledge, what can you do with it that is truly useful and exciting, that can actually change people’s lives?” She spends her days in the labs and classrooms of Caltech, working to create fuels through solar energy. Her discoveries could eventually lead to the energy practices and policies of the future, exactly what Dr. Haile is hoping for.
What Makes Us Human
In December of 2000, Zeresenay uncovered Selam, a 3.3 million year old child skeleton, the earliest known excavated in the history of Paleontology. Zeresenay’s discovery provided evidence of the connections between current and past species of all human beings. “I had wanted to do something amazing," Zeresenay says. He succeeded: With an almost 60% complete skeleton, scientists have a considerably more complete understanding of what early development was like eons ago. Selam’s discovery is particularly important to Ethiopia, as the team that found her was, according to Zeresenay, “100% Ethiopian.” Dr. Alemseged’s discovery affirms the theory that Ethiopia is "the cradle of mankind."
Liya Kebede: A Supermodel with a Mission
An international supermodel described as a “model of the highest rank” by Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Liya has graced runways and magazine covers worldwide. She is also known as a philanthropist throughout the developing world, using her status to spread awareness about issues of health and poverty. By taking on maternal mortality, Liya has become a symbol of hope and change for women and children in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. She is confident that as more people learn about health and poverty issues in Ethiopia and are moved to action, the quality of life will improve and Ethiopians will be uplifted.
Mimi Alemayehou: From Hotel Clerk to Government Executive
Mimi Alemayehou once toiled 40 hours a week at a hotel front desk while putting herself through school. Undeterred by pessimism, she realized her place within a younger generation of immigrants who believe there is no limit to their potential in this country. This led her to eventually become the first African-born leader serving as U.S. Executive Director for the African Development Bank, nominated by President George W. Bush. In 2010, President Obama appointed Mimi Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Member of the Board of Directors for the African Development Foundation.
Marcus Samuelsson: A World Class Chef
with a Three Star Story
One of the youngest chefs to receive three stars from The New York Times, Marcus often pays tribute to his past. Born in a village northeast of Addis Ababa, he and his sister were carried on their mother’s back for 75 miles to a hospital after they all contracted tuberculosis. “And that was the last thing she did, then she passed away,” Marcus says. As owner of five national and international restaurants, he is more than a chef and a writer of award-winning cookbooks. As a UNICEF ambassador, he focuses on providing support for tuberculosis initiatives in developing countries. “I give back through food,” says Marcus.
Woubshet: Literary Scholar at
the Intersection of Nations
“It took me a long time to fall in love with literature in the English language,” confides Dr. Dagmawi Woubshet. And although English is not his mother tongue, with a degree from Harvard University, Dagmawi now teaches English Literature at Cornell University. He began as an undergraduate Political Science and History student at Duke with ambitions for international diplomacy. But Dagmawi had a powerful, path-altering encounter with literature during his sophomore year when he enrolled in a course entitled “Writings of the Black Diaspora.” “The first day of class when we first walked in,” he remembers, “a Bob Marley song called ‘Babylon System’ was playing...”
Mengestu: MacArthur Genius Fellow, Writing on Faith
“Like many immigrants, I grew up my whole life with a number of facts about my country, Ethiopia, and the things that had been lost in the process of migration,” Dinaw says. “But what I never had . . . were narratives and stories of both the people and the country and the culture that had been lost . . . ” As a way of satiating his own curiosity, Dinaw began to put the pieces of his family history together and fill in the gaps with his own imaginative fiction. His award-winning novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air, present a cast of characters informed by people both real and imagined, exploring the overlap between fact and narrative.
Yohannes Tilahun: Keeping Promises,
Two framed documents hang on the wall of Yohannes Tilahun’s executive office: an eviction notice and an immigration hearing summons. They are a constant reminder of the lowest points in his life––when he had to face the prospect of homelessness, his mother’s broken heart, and deportation out of his adopted country . . . While his ambitions were high in his first year of university, things did not go as planned. “I have always been ambitious, but I had no direction at that time,” he says. “Not saving money, not being wise with my financials, a lot of debt, partying a lot, not knowing what my focus was––it led to my destruction.” In December of 1990, the situation reached a traumatic climax and, within a month, Yohannes’s life changed completely. He received an eviction notice from the court . . .
Kenna Zemedkun: Climbing Higher Than the
On his first Mount Kilimanjaro expedition, Kenna was
forced to stop at 18,200 feet after suffering an allergic reaction to his
altitude medicine. Still, he had an easier time scaling Kilimanjaro than the
mainstream music charts. An artist with obvious talent and appeal, he was so
unfairly branded “unmarketable” that Malcolm Gladwell devoted an entire chapter
of his bestseller Blink to “Kenna’s
Dilemma.” Kenna, however, refused to focus on temporary setbacks. “I’m just
trying to be a part of the movement,” he told RWD Magazine. “I don’t know if I can lead it, but I do know
that somebody has to at least start going in the direction of change. I’m
trying to climb up this mountainous wall in front of me to see what I can find
at the heights.”