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$14,972 pledged of $58,000 goal
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By Elias Wondimu
$14,972 pledged of $58,000 goal
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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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    Pledge $8 or more About $8

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

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    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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    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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    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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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    Pledge $375 or more About $375

    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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    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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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    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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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    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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    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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    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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    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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    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)