I'm excited to introduce Zahara, the heroine of Through These Veins. Zahara has agreed to answer some questions so we can get to know her a little better.
Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
I have dreamed to traveling to the
Sahara desert, as I the desert and I share a name. You might recognize my name, Zahara, as similar to Sarah. Names change with travel, so do people. Now that I have traveled from my village in Ethiopia, to the capital of my country, to Washington D.C., the Sahara desert will not look the same to me as it once would have. I think Americans can travel so easily because every corner of the world seems to come to them through their televisions and computers. You can travel to a different country like you are changing your clothes. All you need to do is buy a ticket and you end up in a different place, as if you had shifted a ball beneath your feet with the flick of a toe. But for me, I feel every inch of distance from the place I have come. I feel the ache in my feet, in my bones, in my heart like I had walked each step myself. Perhaps if I were to visit the Sahara, the desert would wrap me in a warm blanket of sand and we would dream together like sisters.
What books have most influenced your life?
My father had a single hard covered book on the bookshelf in our gojo – our home. This was the book he took from his pharmacy before he fled from the capital to our village when the socialist government took over. For a long time that was the only book that influenced my life, even though I didn’t understand most of it, could read only some of the words. But that book listed all of the western medicines and their uses. Of course we didn’t have access to those medicines, but my father used the book as a place to store all of his notes about the plant medicines we did have in our village. So for as long as I could remember, I knew that my father’s life and my life were about illness and healing. As a child I felt proud to have that book in our gojo. Now that I am studying at an American university and see thousands and thousands of books in the research library, I understand just how poor we were.
What is your favorite meal?
I am Ethiopian, so of course my favorite food is injeera, the sour pancakes on which we place all of our food. I love it with lamb stew and a pile of red chili powder.
Who should play you in a film?
Now that I am in the west, I have seen some of these beautiful actresses in films. I admire women like Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep, but they are so much older than my age, and of course they are white American women. If someone were to play me in a movie (American friends have told me the story of my life is very cinematic), I actually wish the actress would be an Ethiopian woman. The look of an Ethiopian woman is very distinctive, with copper skin and almond shaped eyes. She should not be a woman from just anywhere in
Africa, but someone who knows what it means to grow up eating injeera, smelling the coffee brewing, hearing the beats of our music.
What one word best describes you?
You just won a huge lottery what is the first thing you'll buy?
I sometimes imagine returning to my village and paying for a well with an electric pump, or bringing electricity to every gojo, or even a library. But the things that I really long for, my father, the forest, my past, are beyond the reach of money.
Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?
My father always told me, to whom much is given, from whom much is expected. We did not have much in the way of material things when I was a child, but the medicine and the knowledge God gave us are powerful indeed. And for that richness, I owe the world much.
Anne Marie Ruff has reported on AIDS research, drug development, biodiversity conservation, and agriculture from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and
East Africa. Her work has been broadcast by National Public Radio, Public Radio International, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and PBS TV. Her articles have appeared in Time, Christian Science Monitor, and Saveur among other publications. A Minnesota native, Ms. Ruff lives in with her husband and their two sons. Through These Veins is her first novel. Los Angeles
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