Returning to the Washington DC area after living in Sydney, Australia, my tentative plan was to write a book about immigrants, women, and technology and the connections between them. Women and technology have been a significant interest early in my career. However, immigrants or immigration was something new for me. Wouldn't it be interesting, I thought if I could make a connection between these subjects not through technical writing which I used to practice in my profession, but rather to write in a more creative, literary way. While living in Australia, I began writing a memoir and published it in 2013. You can purchase it through my website here.
I had always known when I left Sydney, where I worked for a refugee organization, that I would someday revisit the subject of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. There was something about these subjects I found interesting. Also relevant for the times we are living in at present. I had acquired some understanding now of the challenges faced by displacement. I also know that people become refugees either because of politics, economics, or natural disasters. I began meeting with organizations in the DC area with missions to serve the needs of immigrants, legal or illegal, asylum seekers, and refugees. My learning curve was steep, but I was determined to push through it.
The winter and summer of 2014 came and went, and with me, intensively immersed on these subjects. I read as much as I could and met with experts. I was keen to research and identify which angle of these complex subjects would be the very thing I would like to focus on the book I planned to write. Interestingly enough, when I returned to my DC area home, I found many Ethiopians living or working in Silver Spring, a suburb next to mine. When I first moved to Washington, DC in the 1980s, I saw them mostly in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC or along 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan. Now, there is a Little Ethiopia in Silver Spring! I began to be curious the more I saw them on errands or driving along Fenton Street. The word 'curious' is not what I want to say here. Honestly, a persistent interest was more like how I would describe it now. As a graduate student, I once participated in raising funds for the famine victims of Ethiopia. We sent the money to Save the Children because the organizer of the fund-raising event knew someone who works there. That was the extent of what I knew about Ethiopia or Ethiopians then.
I forgot this experience until I saw Ethiopians in Silver Spring. The subject of Ethiopians would not leave me from this point on. I couldn't get it out of my mind. Something was fascinating about them although I couldn't quite identify what it was I found fascinating. Digging around, I tried to read all that I could about them. When I discovered that the Washington DC metro area hosts the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia, I knew I was on to something. My interest in them piqued when I learned that many Ethiopian refugees, fleeing both the famine and the Red Terror of the Derg from the mid- to late-1970s until they were ousted in 1991, settled in the area.
Is this going to be the subject of my next book? I have quite a bit of material to cover before I decide. I'll have to see how this goes weeks from now.