The 11-Year-Old Man by Mulugheta Abraha Book Review

The 11-Year-Old Man is a book by Mulugheta Abraha, an Eritrean-American writer and the father of the EriAm Sisters, a musical group.

The 11-Year-Old Man by Mulugheta Abraha Book Review

Amanuel Biedemariam

Mulugheta traveled to Europe and, subsequently, the States, following in the footsteps of Eritreans before him. The book is based on the author’s life story and his arduous journey as a refugee to Sudan, The Netherlands, and ultimately, the USA.  Interview Video Link

The book was published in 2022 and has received positive feedback from readers who admired its honesty, courage, and resilience. Eritreans need more books that show their stories and history. The 11-Year-Old Man is one of those books that deserves more recognition and promotion.

As a former child in Eritrea during the Haile Selassie and Derg regimes, I can relate to this book. It shows the experiences of Eritreans at that time. These historical events are unforgettable. In the early 1970s,  major historical events were colliding and determining the future of the people of Eritrea.

The Eritrean people were rising against the Ethiopian occupation; students demonstrated regularly, and many were sent to prison. The songs and artistry of the time reflected the sentiments. Thousands of youth joined the Eritrean struggle for independence. The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) were on the doorsteps of Asmara, ready to take ownership of their country.

Meanwhile, the government of Haile Selassie faced a rebellion that eventually toppled him and replaced him with the Derg, a military junta.

All these developments happened at the same time and ended up changing the lives of Eritreans profoundly. Thousands were killed and imprisoned. Life was completely changed for Eritreans. The mass displacement of Eritreans, especially Eritrean youth, happened during that time.  

The journeys of Eritreans from 1973 until independence were similar. The stories may vary slightly from one person to another, but they are the same no matter where the Eritreans lived.

It is the untold story of Eritreans. It is a historical gap that has yet to be written about. It is a story of bravery, and determination to grow, while, at the same time, remaining true to your Eritrean identity, principles, and traditions.  It is about fate—the Eritrean journey into the unknown. It is about perseverance, daring to venture out into the world to start a new life in a world unfamiliar to blacks without understanding the cultures, the languages, or the ways of life.

It was also a moment in our history when the struggle for independence took shape.

The people of Eritrea fought not only against the Ethiopian occupation but also against each other. It was a moment when the ELF and EPLF fought against each other. Eventually, the EPLF ended up taking over the struggle and ultimately taking control of the future of Eritrea.

These developments had a profound impact on the lives of Eritreans. Mulugheta went through all these developments and experienced life like the thousands of Eritreans who passed through the struggle, then Sudan, and the final destinations that Eritreans went to at the time: Europe, the Middle East, and the USA.

These were historical moments that no one had written about. These incidents demonstrate Eritreans' actual character, journey, and way of life at the time. It also shows how Eritreans organized themselves and supported Eritrea's final victory from wherever they were.

A moment in Eritrean history shows why Eritreans succeeded under some of the most trying circumstances of their lives. Whatever country they lived in, they helped their families in Eritrea. Most importantly, Eritreans continued to fight for their country's independence and had a big part to play in making that happen.

Capturing these complex, nuanced subjects in one book is a difficult task. Mulugheta told his story in a memoir. He told us about his life during the struggle and afterward. In the process, he explained life as an ELF fighter while at the same time telling us the history of Eritrea—the history of Eritreans and the struggle and how we collectively overcame it. There are many subjects of interest to most.

Mulugheta Abraha tells these elaborate stories in a personal way. Eritrean history is unique to every Eritrean. The time frame that the book addresses and the way the author addresses it are stories that are not written about.

As a child of that generation, I am grateful Mulugheta wrote my story. It is everything I have known and more. Mulugheta was able to jar my memories and take me back to those moments, and he brought to life a moment in Eritrean history and how it impacted our lives.

He wrote down our fears, aspirations, and needs and described them exceptionally well. And by doing so, he filled a gap and shared his journey while describing his experiences as a young, aspiring fighter. He was able to convey the emotions and challenges that Eritreans faced.  

The author was part of a much more significant history, the story of the Eritrean struggle. He told us how he joined the ELF and shared his experience. He also explained the history of the conflict between the ELF and the EPLF and how it affected him and the ELF's fighters. They were profoundly affected by the EPLF's victory over them.

He gave us his perspective on the ELF’s mindset and how it fits into the bigger picture, drawing from his experience as an ex-ELF combatant.

There is a lot to unpack about the book. It is a book about perseverance, Eritrean wit, the challenges of his life, and how he overcame those challenges.

It is about self-reliance, discipline, and focus; destiny carries one in ways we don’t expect when a person works hard.

It is about love—love of family, love of your people, and finding love in unexpected places. It is about adventure, something thousands of Eritreans experienced then, and commitment to everything important to you.

His story is the story of Eritreans worldwide. Eritreans were able to juggle personal life with family, siblings, community, and Eritrea while at the same time learning new cultures and learning new languages in the quest to bring their living standards to par with their environment.

I have observed Eritreans are good storytellers. However, only a few are writing to share their stories. In doing so, they are robbing their kids the history.

One of the most brilliant points in the book is how his kids opened up his views about American history and black history, showing the generational gaps that Eritreans experience.

One of the most critical parts of the book is that his kids have the Eritrean perspective and the perspectives of their adopted countries. That is an important exchange that Eritrean parents and immigrant parents can relate to.

The more significant point is because of this colorful book, his kids will have solid perspectives that will carry them through life.

Mr. Mulugheta Abraha wrote a beautifully well-written account of his colorful and successful life and shared his feelings and thoughts with uncommon honesty.

Reviewed By Amanuel Biedemariam


  • The book is a fantastic story of resilience, courage, determination, and hope.
  • The author narrates his life story captivatingly, keeping you hooked from the first page to the last. He shows how he overcame incredible odds and obstacles to achieve his dreams and goals.”
  • This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about Eritrea’s history and culture through a personal lens. The author takes you on a journey from his childhood in Asmara to his escape from war and oppression to his adventures in Europe and America. He shares his insights, challenges, joys, and sorrows with honesty and humor.”
  • “I was blown away by this book. It is not only informative but also inspiring and entertaining. The author's unique voice and style make you feel like you are there with him in every scene. He tells his story with passion, humor, and wisdom. He also gives a lot of background information about Eritrea’s history, culture, and politics that help you understand his perspective.”
  • This book is a gem. It is a rare and authentic account of a child soldier’s experience in Eritrea and his journey to freedom and success. The author writes with clarity, emotion, and humor. He also educates the reader about Eritrea’s history, culture, and struggle for independence.”
  • “I loved this book. It is a fascinating and inspiring story of a young boy who survived war, poverty, discrimination, and violence to become a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. The author tells his story with grace, honesty, and wit. He also provides valuable information about Eritrea’s past, present, and future.”
  • “This book is an eye-opener. It is a powerful and moving story of a boy who grew up in war-torn Eritrea and escaped to pursue his dreams in Europe and America. The author shares his experiences, challenges, achievements, and lessons learned with candor and humor. He also enlightens the reader about Eritrea’s rich history, culture, and aspirations.”