“When you think of Africa, what are the first three things that come to mind?” This is the first question I was asked when I began working at Tsehai Publishers at the beginning of the semester. Like I’m sure most of us would, I had trouble coming up with a sufficient answer to the question.
It is for precisely this reason that Elias Wondimu, exiled Ethiopian journalist and current CEO of Tsehai Publishers, founded the company.
Finding few books on Ethiopia in the United States, Wondimu sought to fill a hole in the American book market by venturing into previously uncharted waters and creating his own publishing company that would simultaneously print scarcely distributed books and raise the standard of integrity in the publishing industry.
“The lack of positive narratives about my country led me to a path of discovery about the realities of all marginalized societies, including Africa, women and the poor among us. Institutions who control what stories get told controls our true information that we consume, our perceptions and by that our future society,” Wondimu said when discussing his motivation for launching Tsehai.
Tsehai means “the sun” in Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, but Wondimu also named the publishing company after his late mother. The company was founded in 1998 with the intention of sharing his passion for Ethiopian and African issues, correcting media misinformation and bias about Africa, fostering intercultural dialogue and social justice and providing a platform for African creativity and knowledge to flourish.
In 2007, Tsehai joined forces with LMU’s Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts, and from that partnership the Marymount Institute Press was born, embodying the Institute’s mission statement.
“Unless it is serving a grander financial purpose, our collective stories never get to be presented for what they are,” Wondimu said. Tsehai attempts to rectify this problem by giving a voice to the voiceless and providing a platform where the marginalized are able to share their stories.
Since their inception, both Tsehai Publishers and the Marymount Institute Press have shown special care and concern for women’s issues, a commitment that is especially relevant in Tsehai’s upcoming book “Temsalet: Phenomenal Ethiopian Women.”
The book was translated from Amharic into English and features the stories of 64 successful and accomplished Ethiopian women from across a wide range of occupations. The purpose of the book, which will be distributed to schools, libraries and girls’ clubs across Ethiopia, is to inspire, empower and celebrate young girls and women.
“I think that the progress that women in Ethiopia and Africa have made towards furthering equal opportunity is widely unacknowledged. A book like this kind of lays out that progress in a simple form through personal narratives.,” said junior English major Rachel Miskei, who interns for Tsehai and helped copy edit “Temsalet.”
“It’s really important for women everywhere, and especially in Ethiopia, to have their stories be heard and have their progress be seen,” she added.
The book is set to be released in the United States in late December to early January and can be purchased online through the Tsehai website.
Kaitlin Perata has been an intern for Tsehai Publishers since August 2014.