Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy's Remarkable Journey from A Refugee Camp to Harvard

Overview

Now in a paperback edition, this acclaimed memoir tells the unforgettable story of a young boy's journey from a refugee camp in Sudan to Chicago, where his family survived on welfare. Mawi followed his father's advice to "treat people . . . as though they were angels sent from heaven, " and realized his dream of a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University. Updated with 14 black-and-white photos and a new epilogue.

An autobiography of a boy who, at the age of ...

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Overview

Now in a paperback edition, this acclaimed memoir tells the unforgettable story of a young boy's journey from a refugee camp in Sudan to Chicago, where his family survived on welfare. Mawi followed his father's advice to "treat people . . . as though they were angels sent from heaven, " and realized his dream of a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University. Updated with 14 black-and-white photos and a new epilogue.

An autobiography of a boy who, at the age of three, fled civil war in Ethiopia by walking with his mother and brother to a Sudanese refugee camp, and later moved to Chicago and earned a scholarship to Harvard University. Includes recipes and discussion questions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1983, at age seven, the author and his family arrived in this country, having fled the Eritrean and Ethiopian conflict. "This earnest account of Asgedom's life up to his graduation from Harvard is peppered with powerful moments," wrote PW. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
The self-published memoir of a young man who traveled from Ethiopia as a refugee to the US and eventually to Harvard is now being brought to YA audiences as a widely publicized paperback reprint. Asgedom’s story is compelling; after three years in a refugee camp in the Sudan, his family—mother, father, brother, and sisters—made their way to the Chicago area where, thanks to their own faith and grit and the everyday generosity of their community, they managed to establish a life for themselves. The most vivid character to emerge from this rather scattershot collection of memories is the author’s father, a medical professional in Ethiopia who became a janitor in the US. In upper-case letters, he enjoins his sons to achieve at all costs or "I WILL MAKE YOU LOST." At other moments, he reflects with great glee on his success in helping fellow refugees work their way around the American legal system. After delivering the commencement address at his graduation from Harvard, the author went on to become a motivational speaker, and, unfortunately, this memoir carries the dual burden of too much motivation and too little editing. The formal prose frequently approaches the histrionic, as in this description of the family’s journey from Ethiopia to Sudan: "Even stories fail me as I try to recall the rest of our journey. I know only that the wilderness took its toll, that our young bodies gave way, and that we entered a more barren and deadly internal wilderness." Too, there is more than a hint of self-aggrandizement, as when the author describes his high-school track training: "Fueled by my improvement during the cross-country season, I kept training throughout the brutal Illinois winter. I ranalmost 400 outdoor miles . . . The discipline brought results. In track, I ran the anchor leg on our all-state 4 x 800-meter-relay team. We won our conference championship . . . " Still, there is much in this account for the judiciously selective reader to ponder, and it does genuinely represent a significant portion of the contemporary American experience. (Nonfiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613641982
  • Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Pages: 141
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Mawi graduated from Harvard University and delivered the commencement address at his graduation in 1999. Now 25 years old, he is a successful inspirational speaker for students, community groups, and businesses.

The author is donating one-third of all final proceeds from the book to The HAT Foundation. HAT is a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources and emotional support for recently arrived third-world immigrants in the United States and provides funding for AIDS and malaria relief in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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Read an Excerpt

Of Beetles and Angels

A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Har
By Mawi Asgedom

Little Brown For Young Readers

Copyright © 2001 Mawi Asgedom
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-82620-0


Chapter One

MEMORIES

The desert, I remember. The shrieking, hyenas, I remember. But beyond that, I cannot separate what I remember from what I have heard in stories.

I may or may not remember seeing my mother look at our house in Adi Wahla, Ethiopia, just before we left. Gazing at it as though it were a person whom she loved and cherished. Trance-walking to the house's white exterior, laying her hands on it for a few moments, feeling its heartbeat-feeling her own heartbeat-then kissing it, knowing that she might never see it again.

I remember playing soccer with rocks, and a strange man telling me and my brother Tewolde that we had to go on a trip, and Tewolde refusing to go. The man took out a piece of gum, and Tewolde happily traded his homeland.

I remember our journey and the woman we met. Despite her fatigue, she walked and walked and walked, trying to limp her way to safety across miles of stones and rocks. She continued to limp, wanting to stop but knowing that if she did she wouldn't move again.

She pressed on and on, and soon her limp became a crawl. And then I saw a sight that I would never forget-the soles of her naked feet melting away and then disappearing into thedesert, leaving only her bloody, red flesh, mixed with brownish sand and dirt.

But still, she kept on crawling. For what choice does a refugee have?

We had no choice, either. We-my mother, my five-year-old brother, my baby sister, and I at age three-kept walking hoping that we would make it to Sudan and find my father. He had fled our war-ravaged home a year earlier, driven away by the advancing Ethiopian army.

Even stories fail me as I try to recall the rest of our journey. I know only that the wilderness took its toll, that our young bodes gave way, and that we entered a more barren and deadly internal wilderness.

We crossed the Sudanese border and arrived at a city called Awad. A sign should have been posted at the city limits: Awad, home of the exiled. Home of the hopeless. Home of the diseased. A simple sign that would warn and welcome us all.

Welcome, all you refugees. All you psychologically tormented. All you physically malnourished. All you uprooted. Rest your hopes here, for no other place will accept them.

But do not hope too much. For too much hope can lead to insanity.

Beware. We can ill treat your ailments. We have a few pills here and little life. We have no guarantees that medicine, not flour, fills the pills. But you have no choice, and neither do we. For we give only that which we have.

Beware our fishermen. Where's the water, you ask? There is no water. They fish for strangers, vagabonds, foreigners, refugees. They look for you even now; if they find you, they will drag you with their iron nets and abandon you in a wilderness hell.

Please do not blame us. What would you do if chaos approached you on the tortured feet of a million refugees? Could you handle so many?

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom Copyright ©2001 by Mawi Asgedom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Memories 1
The Camp 5
Coming to America 15
A New Life 21
God's Angels 29
Playground Warfare 33
Days of Mischief 47
Libee Migbar 63
Coffee Tales 75
The Making of a Man 85
The Unmaking of a Man 95
Eyeing the Mountaintop 109
Father Haileab 121
Izgihare Yihabkoom 133
Epilogue 135
Mama Tsege's Legendary Habesha Recipes 146
Reading Group Guide 150
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Reading Group Guide

1. If you had to flee America today with your immediate family, several suitcases, and $100, where would you go? How would you get there? What would be your biggest challenges once you got there?

2. One of the last things the villagers told Mawi's family was, "Remember us." When Mawi gave his commencement address at Harvard, he started out by sharing a piece of advice that his mother always gave him: "Always remember where you came from." What does it mean to remember where you came from? Is it important? Where do YOU come from?

3. Were Mawi's parents good parents? What are the attributes of good parents?

4. If you wrote a memoir of your life, what experiences would you share with the readers? What wouldn't you share? Do you think that you would learn anything new about yourself?

5. Mawi dedicates his book to the "true hero of this story, [his] mother, Tsege." But he hardly mentions her in his book. If Tsege is so heroic, why doesn't Mawi write more about her?

6. What does the book's title, Of Beetles and Angels, mean to you? Are there angels in your life? Who are they? How would you title your memoir?

7. What different forms can terrorism take in a classroom, community, or country? How might playground warfare lead to civil or international warfare?

8. Stealing a parking meter is a serious crime. What if Mawi had been caught by the policeman and sent to a behavior-disorder school? Would his life have turned out the same? Can we use Mawi's story to argue that young people should be given multiple opportunities to "develop a heart"?

9. Rudyard Kipling once asked, "And who should know England, who only England has known?" What does it mean to know America? Do you know America? *If you are not in America, substitute your own country.

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