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Rebecca Haile describes return to Ethiopia in a new book

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By Amy Bowen abowen@stcloudtimes.com
St Cloud Times

NEW YORK CITY — Rebecca Haile finally returned home after 25 years.

Rebecca Haile

Haile, now 42, captured in a book the emotion of her return to Ethiopia years after her parents, Getatchew Haile and Misrak Amare Haile, fled with their family to Collegeville. Her father is an outspoken critic of his homeland’s communist government, and he was shot by the government and paralyzed in 1975.

Rebecca Haile just released the book, “Held at a Distance,” a collection of essays about her return. She made the monthlong trip in 2001, visiting family members and historical sites.

The book is available online and at bookstores.

“It’s where I’m from, said Rebecca Haile, who now lives in New York City with her husband and two children. “It’s part of who I am.”

She didn’t plan on writing a book.

But once she started her travels, she jotted down notes to keep her memories fresh. She wrote about seeing her childhood home where her father was shot. She described visiting her grandmother for the first time in years.

She started writing her book when she realized her experiences weren’t limited to her.

People haven’t told their stories, Rebecca Haile said. “If more stories come to light … that would be a great prospect.”

She hopes the book will humanize Ethiopia’s struggles and encourage empathy for the country’s citizens.

Her father read the book and the essay, “A Solid Foundation,” touched him, he said. In it, Rebecca Haile describes visiting her childhood home.

“It’s very much involved and personal for me,” Getatchew Haile said. “I never knew she was so attached to our house … I shed tears. I’m very sorry for her.”

Rebecca Haile had the first of many readings from the book recently in New York.

She said she hopes to have readings this fall in Central Minnesota.

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