Seeking Salaam

Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis in the Pacific Northwest

Sandra M. Chait

  • Published: 2011. Paperback 2013
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology; African American Studies; Pacific Northwest
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Prolonged violence in the Horn of Africa, the northeastern corner of the continent, has led growing numbers of Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis to flee to the United States. Despite the enmity created by centuries of conflict, they often find themselves living as neighbors in their adopted cities, with their children as class-mates in school. In many ways, they are successfully navigating life in their new home; however, they continue to struggle to bridge old ethnic divisions and find salaam, or peace, with one another. News from home fuels historical grievances and perpetuates tensions within their communities, delaying acculturation, undermining attempts at reconciliation, and sabotaging the opportunity to reach the American Dream.

In conversations with forty East African immigrants living in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, Sandra Chait captures the immigrants' struggle for identity in the face of competing stories and documents how some individuals have been able to transcend the ghosts from the past and extend a tentative hand to their former enemies.
Sandra M. Chait, who immigrated to the Unites States from South Africa, taught African literature and served as associate director of the University of Washington's Program on Africa. She is an independent scholar in Seattle.
Map of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia

1. At "Home" in the Pacific Northwest
2. Within the American Gaze
3. With Eyes Open
4. Having the Last Word
5. Cultural and Economic Rivals
6. The Challenges Within
7. Women Speak Out

Appendix 1. Time Line (1890-2010)
Appendix 2. Participants

"An important book for a nation seeking peace with itself as well as with its new immigrant arrivals who are redefining equality, citizenship, and democracy."
-Robert D. Thompson, Oregon Historical Quarterly

"Sandra M. Chait is to be commended for capturing the complex interrelationship of 20th and 21st century immigrant communities from the Horn of Africa as they engage in healing the wounds of wars and finding salaam - peace - in their adopted country."
-Ruth Iyob, Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, Vol. 10(2) 2012

"Chait wove their stories into a book, Seeking Salaam, that captures the complexity of identity and the horror and hopefulness of life for her subjects."
-Jerry Large, The Seattle Times, November 2011

"[Seeking Salaam] grants the reader valuable insight into the immigrant experience of Horn Africans in the Pacific Northwest."
-Robin Hardy, Pacific Northwest Quarterly