The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiography / Africa / Women's Studies


Blue Daughter of the Red Sea
A Memoir
Meti Birabiro

Terrace Books

"My writing. If I didn't write, I don't know what would have become of me. The blank pages inspire my confidence. I don't trust people. No one. But those blank pages. . . . I could marry into a family of blank papers."
—excerpt from Blue Daughter of the Red Sea

Born into a life of constant financial, physical, and moral threat, Meti Birabiro takes refuge in literature and the fantastic. Blue Daughter of the Red Sea is Birabiro's poetic account of the harsh reality of her young life spread across three continents. Her voice is a fresh mélange of child and adult perspectives, at once brutally honest and wise beyond her years. Through her journey from Ethiopia to Italy and finally to the United States, we encounter Birabiro's relatives, friends, and enemies—relationships so intense that these people become her vampires, devils, angels, and saints. These characterizations always lead her back to the truth, helping her to decipher what is fair and good, to understand what she must cherish and what she must rage against.

"Poverty is venom that slowly saps one's existence. It is a white noise that quakes the shape of survival. It corrodes the scenery and cuts one's world asunder. I was born and grew up in the heart of that corrosive acid. Dire Dawa, a small city warmly embraced by a fiery sun and caressed by some magicless dust, was the name of my hometown. Life was not charming in Dire Dawa. Children ran barefoot against a background of feces-embedded roads, spinning around the desert city, puffing on the sands forming dunes of smaller versions, while the little ones piggybacked on their mother's back." —excerpt from Blue Daughter of the Red Sea

"When I began to read this memoir, I could not put it down. There is an intensity of experience, a poignancy in the voice of the child-narrator that tells her own harrowing story of poverty and marginality. But at the same time, there is a lyrical tone to her writing. She is able to capture beauty amidst the horrors. And also, she is able to continue becoming human in a dehumanized world."
—Virgil Suarez, author of Guide to the Blue Tongue

"Birabiro's account is tinged with a jaunty homesickness of someone who while still in her mid-twenties, has found her only real home in a foreign language. . . . Her poetic riffs of narrative, in the eternal present tense of memory, make for a lively engagement with culture."—Leeta Taylor, Foreword, July/August 2004

Meti Birabiro studied comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She currently lives in the United States.

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August 2004
LC: 2003020577 E
176 pp.  5 x 8 1/2

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Cloth $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-19570-0
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