Tsehai Publishers was founded in 1998 by Elias Wondimu, an exiled Ethiopian journalist. In September 1994, he left his country to participate in the Twelfth International Ethiopian Studies conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing -- his three weeks travel became indefinite. Later that year, he joined the Ethiopian Review magazine in Los Angeles, serving as managing editor for six years. In these years, he worked with many scholars, political activists, and public intellectuals on issues of local and global interest.
Passionate about Ethiopian and African issues, Wondimu saw a void in the American book market. Books on Ethiopia were few and scattered among many publishers. Those books that were available spread misinformation, propagating ignorance. Wondimu found himself asking questions for which existing literature had no answers.
Frustrated of waiting for change in the publishing world, and not wanting another generation to experience the same troubles, Wondimu decided to take matters into his own hands. He is determined to publish books that will heal the wounds of ignorance, and raise the bar for integrity in the publishing industry. Wondimu sees Tsehai not as an end goal, but a continuing means of African knowledge creation and propagation -- a way to set the record straight after decades of misinformation and media bias.
Tsehai means “the sun” in Amharic, the native language of Ethiopia. Wondimu named the company named after and dedicates his work to his mother, Tsehai, who passed away in 1997, three years after he left Ethiopia. In 1998, Tsehai published its first book.
(Tsehai founder and publisher Elias Wondimu)
From 1998–2001, Wondimu focused on distributing scarce books not readily available in the market. In 2000, he joined UCLA as assistant editor of an academic journal. Through this position, he discovered widely distributed media through which otherwise marginalized minority scholars could share their work with the general public.
In 2001, Wondimu left his job and began running Tsehai full time. Through Tsehai, Wondimu has published more than 60 books, started academic journals available through JSTOR, and founded three imprints, the Marymount Institute Press, the African Academic Press, and Chereka Books.
In 2002, Heinemann, the leading publisher of African literature, ceased publishing its famous “African Writers Series.”Tsehai stepped up to fill this void in a very small way through its African Academic Press imprint. In 2005, Tsehai was featured as one of the leading publishing entities in Los Angeles by LA Weekly, one of the largest circulated newspapers west of the Mississippi. Later, in 2007, Tsehai joined the Marymount Institute at Loyola Marymount University, establishing the Marymount Institute Press.
Tsehai Publishers is where a writer becomes an author. Our mission is to provide a venue for writers whose works may otherwise go unpublished. Through these efforts we hope to achieve our goals of fostering intercultural dialogue and social justice.