The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

The loops of Ethiopia and family loop on and on

Twenty-some years ago, I spent New Year’s Eve in a hospital room in Trinidad, Colorado, having a baby.  Every other person who came through the labor room (and there were plenty, as I remember) suggested I wait and have the first new year’s baby.  The others said I should have the baby now and get a tax deduction.  (My husband is fond of pointing out that even though our son was born that Dec. 31, we didn’t earn enough that year to make the tax deduction useful.  But we did ensure great New Year’s Eve celebrations ever after.)

He was our kid who met life head on–the one who broke his arm trying to follow his older brother in leaping off a table, who needed stitches from a rake, from falling into a window well, from barb wire.  When he decided to volunteer in one of the Ethiopia Reads libraries in Ethiopia, we knew it would be an adventure.

It was.

In many, many ways.

Jonathan learned Amharic and went exploring, including climbing high in the Ethiopian mountains.  He discovered he wanted to tell stories through photographs.

He also got married, started a B&B, and had a daughter.

Some years ago when the summer got rough in Ethiopia, Hiwot and Jonathan and their daughter moved to Kansas so they could finish college.  I surely am proud that right after he graduated this summer, he was offered a job as a photojournalist–at a time when all the old ways of getting stories into the world seem to be falling apart and many of us are struggling with how to put an income together in the new world.

If income is hard, though, the other rewards are mighty.

I glommed onto my dream of writing books for children when my kids were little and I was reading books to them and watching the world unfold for them in new and fascinating ways.  I wrote my Ethiopia books partly as a way to open the world of my childhood to my own children.  Now it feels sweet–and even slightly woo-woo–to watch my Ethiopian-American grandchildren reading those Ethiopia books…

…and discovering the outside world I wanted for my newest character, Lanie–the world my parents gave me in Ethiopia.

What an adventure my mom and dad put in motion that December they decided to take a day of Christmas break (when they were in college) and get married.   I wonder what loops the next year will bring.

5 thoughts on “The loops of Ethiopia and family loop on and on”

  1. It continues to amaze me, Jane, when I look at pictures of your grandchildren and imagine them one day saying, “So, my father’s mother’s parents decided to work in Ethiopia, which meant that my father’s mother, Jane, grew up in Ethiopia. Jane was a writer and reader, and so, years later in America, she got involved with starting libraries in Ethiopia. Because of that, her son (my father) volunteered at that foundation, Ethiopia Reads, and met my mother there.” It’s rare that we can see so clearly how our great-grandparents’ decisions affected our very existence.


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