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The hopes and aspirations, struggles and triumphs of an amazing generation of Ethiopians

About this project

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 inspiration.

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.

Dr. 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. 

Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged:  Uncovering 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. 

Dr. Dagmawi 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...” 

Dinaw 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, Sharing Success

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 Music Charts

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.”

Risks and challenges

We are not raising the funds to write the book, but to produce it in a way that represents the success stories we want to share with the world. Currently, the profiles for this book are 85% done. For the remaining 15%, we have hired new writers and an editor in order to finish the project in time. This minimizes the risk that comes with a project like this.
 
We realize that gathering a range of photographs to represent the individuals' lives and accomplishments for the coffee table edition might be a challenge, depending on the individuals’ access and availability of personal photo collections. However, we have already begun gathering photos and will continue to work with the book subjects directly.

The other challenge is meeting the high standard we've set for ourselves to appeal to a wide readership––not only Ethiopians in North America but also Ethiopians, particularly young people, in the home country. We want the text, layout, and images to capture readers of a wide age range and of different cultures.
 
Since we have been publishing academic books for the last ten years, our past experiences come in handy to avoid most pitfalls in publishing. To make this project a reality, we will continue to work tirelessly. For examples of our published books, please visit our website at: store.tsehaipublishers.com.

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FAQ

  • We want to tell new and untold stories––stories that move beyond stereotypes of hunger and tyranny to give a different understanding of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

    We believe that these stories can not only serve as a much needed inspiration to a new generation of Ethiopians, but will also illuminate a more multi-faceted face of Ethiopia than the one that is often shown.

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  • Here are some of the individuals covered in the book:

    Addisu Demissie (Political Strategist) — Alfa Demmellash (Social Entrepreneur) — Daniel Bekele (Human Rights Activist) — Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw (Physicist) — Enku Gelaye (University Executive) — Fanna Haile-Selassie (Broadcast Journalist) — Gelila Asres (TV Producer) — Haddis Tadesse (Non-Profit Executive) — Jomo Tariku (Designer, Human Rights Advocate) — Joseph Kibur (Internet Philanthropist) — Julie Mehretu (Visual Artist) — Leelai Demoz (Film Producer) — Maaza Mengiste (Author, Lecturer) — Dr. Mehret Mandefro (Physician, Interdisciplinary Scholar) — Meklit Hadero (Singer-Songwriter) — Menelik Tefera (Hotelier) — Mike Ellison (Creative Artist, Music Producer) — Nnegest Likké (Screenwriter, Film Director) — Mawi Asgedom (Author, Speaker) — Dr. Solomon Assefa (Technological Innovator) — Teodross Avery (Jazz Musician) — Dr. Tewodros Gedebou (Plastic Surgeon) — Tigist Zegeye (Engineer) — Weyni Mengesha (Theater Director) — Wondwossen Mezlekia (Agriculture Activist) — Dr. Yared Tekabe (Research Scientist) — Yemane Demissie (Film Director and Professor) and more...

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  • This book will come in four editions:

    1. Coffee Table Edition – An opulent, hardcover book featuring full color portraits of each of the book's subjects. The hardcover edition is colorfully and carefully designed, bringing its subjects to life on the page. This elegant volume is great to enjoy with coffee or leave out for display.

    2. Paperback Edition – This volume is portable and easy to share. It will have a single, black and white portrait of each of the book's subjects.

    3. Amharic Edition – An Amharic translation of the text, published as a paperback volume with black and white portraits of each subject. A portion of this version will be donated to libraries in Ethiopia through http://www.ethiopiareads.org/ organization.

    4. eBook Edition – This is an electronic version of the book. The electronic edition contains no photographs, but it will be available on different tablet formats for easy access.

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  • Funds raised will go towards the development of both hard and soft cover versions of the book—donations will help give the book the look, feel, and reach—photos, design, packaging, printing and distribution support—it needs to reach those it will inspire.

    Raised funds will be put towards: Photography — Photo Licensing — Design — Packaging — Marketing — Printing — Distribution — Amharic Translation.

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  • No. Every dollar is sincerely appreciated, so pledge as much as you want.

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  • Over the course of the last four years, nearly 50 individuals were interviewed. By virtue of the diversity and level of their accomplishments, 35+ people were chosen. The interviews were compiled, edited and recorded to form a narrative. Nearly a dozen profile writers, have assisted in the writing and editing process. Currently, we are finalizing the few remaining profiles and preparing the final layout design.

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  • At the moment, individuals in the book are pre-selected. However, if you know an exceptional person who should be in this first edition, please contact us and we will do our utmost to include him or her.

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  • Yes, all those featured in the book must be born in Ethiopia or have Ethiopian parents.

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  • You can receive a copy by pledging at a reward level of $50 or more (with free shipping in the US). After the fundraiser is complete, the book will be available for purchase at http://tsehaipublishers.com/.

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  • If you live in the United States, the shipping will be free. If you live outside the US, please add $15 to your donation to cover the shipping cost.

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  • Depending on the pledge amount you selected for our Coffee + Table + Book project, you will receive your selected edition plus one or a combination of the following:

    Organic Ethiopian Coffee: Blessed Coffee integrates traditional Ethiopian coffee culture and the global coffee industry. The robust flavors of the company's organic, fair trade product evoke the rich Ethiopian traditions rooted in coffee. Company profits support these traditions: Blessed Ethiopia maintains profit sharing arrangements with 200,000 small farmers through the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. Each type of Blessed Coffee comes from a specific region of Ethiopia, with flavors reflecting the landscape and culture of these regions. Feel good about drinking the best coffee in the world.

    Ethiopian traditional coffee cups: The Ceine is a small, traditional Ethiopian coffee cup used in coffee ceremonies. An invitation to a coffee ceremony symbolizes great friendship and respect in Ethiopian culture – the cups are not simply containers, but important, hand-crafted cultural objects bearing beautiful traditional designs. Arrange your set of cups decoratively in your home, or use them functionally when entertaining friends and family with Ethiopian coffee.

    Ethiopian Music Collection: This carefully selected collection of Ethiopian music runs a wide gamut of genres. From traditional folk sounds to globally renown Ethio-jazz and contemporary pop music, the collection highlights the full, colorful, diverse cultural milieu of modern Ethiopia. Listen to our Ethiopian music collection not just as a music fan, but to expand and redefine your vision of Ethiopia today.

    Ethiopian Film Collection: The five invigorating, mindfully chosen pictures in our Ethiopian film collection provide entertainment and education. The films enrapture with their narratives while providing an expansive view of the Ethiopian history, politics, society, and culture over the course of the past 50 years. Enjoy the magic of the movies while learning to appreciate Ethiopia's many social and historical complexities in new and meaningful ways.

    Messob Table: A messob is a traditional, woven table and gathering place in the Ethiopian home. A common name for Ethiopian restaurants in the United States, the word “messob” invokes a sense of community. Messob tables are traditionally woven with akirma, a tall grass native to Ethiopia and culturally important plant that appears in everything from traditional woven shepherd's hats worn during the rainy season (guessa) to padding for outside gathering sites. Use your colorful, handwoven messob as a decorative conversation piece or a gathering site in your home and definitely, a place to display our coffee table book.

    Axum Obelisk Flash Drive Keychain: This exclusive Tsehai flash drive keychain is designed in the image of the Axum Obelisk erected in the 4th Century AD. Axum was an important African trade post and kingdom for nearly 1000 years. The Obelisk was taken to Italy by Mussolini’s troops in 1937, only to return to Ethiopia in 2005. Designed by and produced exclusively for Tsehai, the flash drive is a unique way to commemorate Ethiopia’s heritage.

    Northern Ethiopia Tour: The tour of northern Ethiopia incorporates many of the country's most culturally and historically fascinating sites. From the capital Addis Ababa, participants fly north to the city of Axum, the seat of the ancient kingdom of Axum. From Axum the tour heads south through Lalibela, home to world famous monolithic churches carved directly into stone. The tour also incorporates Gondar, once home to the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia and filled with many beautiful medieval structures, and the lush, towering Simien Mountains; Bahir Dar, a modern cultural center set close to both Lake Tana – the largest lake in Ethiopia – and the Blue Nile, before ending in Addis Ababa.

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  • If you are able, please donate to make this project a reality. If you’re unable to donate, please spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    $8 reward

    20 backers

    eBook — Exclusively priced digital copy of the book, delivered a week before the release date.

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  • You selected
    $25 reward

    37 backers

    Softcover — Exclusively priced, softcover copy of the book delivered a week before the release date and a digital copy of the text.

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  • You selected
    $50 reward

    53 backers

    Hardcover — Hardcover copy of the book, delivered a week before the release date, and donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads. (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads). Includes a digital copy of the text.

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  • You selected
    $100 reward

    7 backers

    Student Dedication –– Make a donation in honor of a special young person in your life. Tsehai will later request the name of one "student" (birth through college age––a child, niece, nephew, grandchild, sibling, or other young person that you would like to honor) and will include his/her full name in the book's dedication page.

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  • You selected
    $150 reward

    8 backers

    Hardcover & Coffee — Hardcover copy of the book, delivered before the release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); two bags of 12-oz fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $200 reward

    1 backer

    Donate in Honor of Parents or Grandparents –– The older generations made the successes of this generation possible. Backers who chose this reward will later be invited to submit up to two names of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors, etc. Tsehai will print two full names in a special section of the book in honor of these elders.

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  • You selected
    $250 reward

    7 backers

    Coffee Lovers — Set of six handcrafted traditional Ethiopian coffee cups; hardcover and paperback versions of the book delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $325 reward

    3 backers

    Ethiopian Music Collection — Five handpicked albums from and/or selected by our book's subjects Kenna, Meklit Hadero, Wayna Wondwossen, Tewodross Avery, Daniel Lemma, and Mike-E; hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); two 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flashdrive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $350 reward

    1 backer

    Ethiopian Film Collection — Five handpicked films in DVD format, from and/or selected by the book's subjects Leelai Demoz, and Nnegest Likke; hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); two 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $375 reward

    3 backers

    Ethiopian Book Collection — Five handpicked books from and/or selected by Tsehai Publishers and the book’s subjects Maaza Mengiste, Dinaw Mengestu and Marcus Samuelsson; hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); two 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $650 reward

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    MARCUS SAMUELSSON COLLECTION — Dinner for two at Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem, NYC (NY Area only); signed copies of Chef Samuelsson’s four books; hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads).

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  • You selected
    $1,000 reward

    2 backers Limited (18 left of 20)

    FULL CULTURE COLLECTION — Full Ethiopian Culture Collection (aforementioned handpicked music, books and films); hard and soft cover versions of the book before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $1,500 reward

    0 backers Limited (15 left of 15)

    MESSOB TABLE — Hand-woven Ethiopian Messob table delivered to your home; full Ethiopian Culture Collection (aforementioned handpicked music, books and films); set of six handcrafted traditional Ethiopian coffee cups; hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $2,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    SPECIAL AFTERWARD THANKS — Special “Thank You” included in the afterward of the book; full Ethiopian Culture Collection (aforementioned handpicked music, books and films); hardcover version of the book, delivered before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $5,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    ALMOST EVERYTHING — Hand-woven Ethiopian Messob table; afterward “Thank You” mention in the book; full Ethiopian Culture Collection (aforementioned handpicked music, books and films); set of Six handcrafted traditional Ethiopian coffee cups; copies of both hard and soft cover versions of the book before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $10,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    ETHIOPIAN VACATION — Organized Historic Northern Ethiopia 5 nights/6 days tour for two with a private guide – hotel, airfare, ground transportation and all local taxes and tourist entrance fee included; exclusive, pre-order priced copies of all electronic, Amharic, hard and soft cover versions of the book before its release date; donation to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads (for every hardcover pre-order, we will donate two softcover Amharic language editions to Ethiopia Reads); five 12-oz bags of fair trade Ethiopian coffee; 4GB Axum Obelisk flash drive keychain.

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  • You selected
    $10,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER — An executive publisher credit on the book’s cover; extra-special "Thank You" in the afterward; Hand-woven Ethiopian Messob table; ten copies of the coffee table book; full Ethiopian Culture Collection (above mentioned-handpicked music, books and films); two sets of Six handcrafted traditional Ethiopian coffee cups; ten bags of 12-oz fair trade Ethiopian coffee delivered to your home before its release date; and on your behalf, we will donate 50 Amharic version of the book to libraries in Ethiopia via Ethiopia Reads.

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Funding period

- (60 days)