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Monday, March 20, 2023

Creator of the First Ethiopian Superhero Expands His Children’s Book to More Languages and Formats

Beserat Debebe, creator of Jember

NationwideOpen Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) is launching a special collaboration with Etan Comics, the creator of the character Jember, the first Ethiopian superhero. The partnership makes the children’s book version of Jember available in multiple new languages and formats so that it can reach a much broader audience.

Beserat Debebe, the creator and writer of Jember, was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Beserat grew up watching animated stories on TV and film, which translated into a love for graphic novels. However, he couldn’t find any stories featuring Ethiopian characters, and he also noticed that most stories about Africa tended to exacerbate negative perceptions and stereotypes of Africans.

In 2018, he founded Etan Comics, a Pan-African entertainment company known for publishing African comics and graphic novels created by African creators—visually stunning stories that connect Black kids with their African heritage. Etan published both a graphic novel version and a children’s bilingual (Amharic/English) hardcover-book version of Jember. The graphic novel was nominated for a Nommo Award for “Best Comic or Graphic Novel” from the African Speculative Fiction Society.

OHBD is working with Etan to publish the children’s book in eleven additional languages and new paperback and eBook formats which launched throughout February in celebration of Black History. OHBD will also offer special giveaways and prizes as part of this launch.

Beserat addressed the importance of the partnership by saying, “We have already seen how invaluable it has been for our fans to find our books in Amharic. They have used it to learn the language, build their reading skills, connect with their heritage, and foster self-confidence. We consider this as part of our social responsibility as there is a profound lack of empowering stories in the Ethiopian and African communities. That’s why this collaboration with OHBD is huge. I love all the work OHBD has been doing to improve literacy in Ethiopia over the past few years. Over 40% of the Ethiopian population are children from ages 0-14. They deserve to have access to quality books that empower and encourage them to dream bigger.”

The Jember children’s book was illustrated by Yonatan Solomon and Michael Okoroagha. Yonatan is an Ethiopian graphic designer and illustrator. Michael Okoroagha is a Nigerian illustrator and background artist.

Ellenore Angelidis founded OHBD in 2016, inspired by her Ethiopian-born daughter, Leyla Marie Fasika. OHBD is a Seattle-based, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that believes the chance to dream big dreams should not depend on where in the world you are born. The organization is dedicated to meeting the challenge of increasing literacy, inclusion, innovation readiness, and leadership skills in Ethiopia and beyond. Since 2017, they have produced more than 800 bilingual, culturally appropriate early-reader titles. Learn more about the organization at OpenheartsBigDreams.org

When asked if she imagines future collaborations with Etan Comics, Angelidis said, “We are hoping this is the first of many!”

For press inquiries, contact Ellenore Angelidis at 425-295-8841 or ellenore@openheartsbigdreams.org