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I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation Hardcover – June 14, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Much like Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001), covering the reign of Zaire's brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, this book taps at the world's conscience, asking who is to blame for the suffering and neglect of postcolonial African states; it takes Eritrea as case study—and victim. A veteran Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Wrong writes in a pointedly digressive style full of narrative side roads that accommodate a daunting level of geographical and historical detail. Historical highlights include a colorful profile of the late 19th-century writer and Italian parliamentarian Ferdinando Marini that draws on his extensive memoirs about his tenure as the first civil governor of the region as an Italian colony. The early 1960s conflict, occupation and independence of this small neighbor to Ethiopia also make for a terrible, gripping story, including border disputes and bloody war with Ethiopia. A complicated history so punctuated with violence is not exactly easy to read about, but the author's extraordinary grasp of the postcolonial psyche and tormented national identity of this country makes it fascinating. Agent, Joy Harris.(June 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Wrong, an Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, is no stranger to African politics. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001) covered Zaire’s brutal history; this book attempts to put Eritrea in the public conscience. While chronicling each stage of the nation’s history, Wrong creates lively profiles and successfully dissects geopolitical rivalries. Highly readable, the most compelling parts address the colonial and postwar eras, when the U.N. failed to act against Ethiopian repression. Other pages, including her discussion of the presence of U.S. military personnel, received mixed reviews. Some critics even wondered if Wrong’s "True Believer" optimism didn’t create a simplistic morality play. But all told, I Didn’t Do It For You is an important book, one that will help put Eritrea back on the world map.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060780924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060780920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Half British, half Italian, Michela Wrong has spent nearly two decades writing about Africa. As a Reuters correspondent based in first Cote d'Ivoire and former Zaire, she covered the turbulent events of the mid 1990s, including the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko and Rwanda's post-genocide period. She then moved to Kenya, where she became Africa correspondent for the Financial Times. In 2000 she published her first non-fiction book, "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", the story of Mobutu. Her second non-fiction work, "I didn't do it for you", focused on the Red Sea nation of Eritrea. Her third, "It's Our Turn to Eat", tracks the story of Kenyan whistleblower John Githongo. "Borderlines" is her first novel. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By George P. Watts on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michela Wrong's style of writing is captivating as she brings History to life. She develops the personalities of the people involved very thoroughly and it is almost like reading a novel. She picks a relevant theme (not obvious until read) for her chapters to coincide with each pertinent stage of recent Eritrean History. Her book is not only a lesson in History, but also pleasure to read.

I found myself remembering and reminiscing about things I had long forgotten while I lived at Kagnew Station, Asmara, Eritrea in the early sixties. I was married to an Eritrean lady for thirty-three years before I lost her in a car accident eight years ago. Because of my interest in my spouse's heritage I have read many books and reports about Eritrea over the years. The recent History of Eritrea has confused me in the past, even though I had direct accounts and opinions from my in-laws who lived through those trying times. I was never sure of the big picture, i.e., why the Russians pulled out and where the U.S. stood on all that was happening. And I was not aware of the brutal fighting between the British and Italians during WWII at the Battle of Keren. I also did not understand the extent to which the British dismantled the factories and Italian capital investment in Eritrea. Michel Wrong has provided me with answers to many questions I have lived with so long. She also summed up the G.I. lifestyle at Kagnew Station very well. There was a lot of "Aminal House" type behavior at Kagnew Station. But I think the guys she interviewed for this subject probably exaggerated a bit on just how wild a place it actually was.

While this is obviously a book that has meant much to me and my past life, I found Ms. Wrong to be an excellent author.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Doyle Odom on March 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
After reading Ms. Wrongs book I have mixed feelings about it's content. I lived in Asmara for 2 years and 3 months (71-73)near Kagnew Station.

I enjoyed reading the stories of the few people she spotlighted. She does know how to spin a yarn, keeping my interest, but also there is something missing. Actually, much is missing.

The first thing I will comment on is about the Italians living under Ethiopian occupation in Asmara. I witnessed many abuses by these privileged, spoiled Italians in Eritrea. From the teenage gangs of the sons of the colonialists who hunted down and beat dark skinned Eritreans (much like the brown shirts of Nazi Germany) to the shunning of the mixed blood people (who were called Cafe-latte). I find it hard to believe that any Eritrean would welcome Italians as "belonging to Eritrea".

The antics of the "gross guys" is very misplaced. It is nothing more than the story of a few drunks who were totally insignificant in the history of Eritrea. I'm sure the experience of Eritrea was as varied as the people stationed there.

My experience was much different. My parents enjoyed the Eritrean people and the beauty of the countryside. We traveled often on weekends to Dekemhare, Keren, Masawa and many placed I have forgotten the names of. We visited orphanages, helping to repair windmills, meeting the British families devoted to the easing of suffering in this forgotten part of the world. These were the acts of kindness. Orphanage volunteers, peace corp workers, religious missions....these were ALL staffed by British and Americans....NEVER Italians.

Mrs Wrong quotes "Zazz" in a discussion about GI guilt about not serving in Vietnam.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mark bennett on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is in some ways a good and necessary book. It spotlights a nation and a set of problems that most of the world doesn't pay much attention to. But there is a problem. Michela Wrong is too close to the subject and her emotional attachment at times results in the book not being as objective or as good as it might have been. In particular, she seems to have been far too close to Eritrean rebel groups and their leaders.

Eritrea's history isn't about "betrayal". Its about the same problems that most African nations have faced. Rather than face the fact that the problems of Eritrea today are largely self-inflicted wounds, she falls back into blaming colonialism and cold-war politics in really unconvincing ways.

In her coverage of Italian colonial rule, she confuses events in Eritrea with those in Ethiopia. She is also willing to judge Italy to a far higher standard than she applies to the pre or post-independence governments of both countries. She is also more than a little unwilling to understand the role that Italy played in creating Eritrea.

The lowest point in the book is her coverage of Britain's wartime rule of Eritrea. She advances a theory that the british were racist than the italians because their rule produced fewer multiracial children. Somehow she sees superior morality in men who promoted widespread prostitution and produced children which they abandoned. It makes no sense to me. Her logic is also full of wrong assumptions about the number of British in the country and the nature of the occupation.

She also isn't very good about the details of the war. The war in East Africa and in particular the victory at Keren was not a British victory, but a victory of the British Indian Army.
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