Author Eve Troutt Powell held a discussion at the University of Pennsylvania bookstore on Tuesday evening to talk about her book, Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan and the Ottoman Empire. The bookstore, located at the corner of 36th and Walnut streets, held the event on the second floor in the music section.
Students with backpacks slung over shoulders and older history aficionados continued to spill in minutes before Powell stood behind the black podium. She started the evening thanking the audience for coming despite the dreary weather.
Jibreel Powell, a cognitive science student at Penn and son of Powell, said he knew of his mother’s idea for the novel.
“Her inspiration originated from her friend Yar Deng who she met in Cairo. She expanded on this experience and began to research more about refugees in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire” Powell said. “She wanted to dignify the history of those that find themselves refugees.”
Powell said the defining moment in her decision to write on slavery came during her travels around Egypt. Yar Deng brought her to a church where she was introduced to St. Josephine Bakhita for the first time. Bakhita was a Sudanese slave who stood up for her right as a free woman and was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2000. Powell said she was fascinated by Bakhita’s strength and wanted to delve deeper into slavery in the Middle East.
Powell ended the lecture by stressing to the audience Egypt is a wonderful and fun place to visit despite the problems addressed in her book.