The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History
By Aida Edemariam
Genre: Biography; history; oral history; memoir
Publisher: Harper (2018; Originally published in Great Britain in 2018 by Fourth Estate)
ISBN-10: 062136038, 0008191751
ISBN-13: 978-0062136039, 978-08191757
Winner of the Ondaatje Prize, the Royal Society of Literature’s annual award to a work that best evokes “the spirit of a place” (2018).
Spanning almost one hundred years, the life of the author’s grandmother intersects with many of the most momentous events of 20th -century Ethiopian history. After a timeless-feeling childhood in Gondar, marked above all by tradition, festivals, and rituals (including marriage at the age of eight to a politically engaged priest-poet), she becomes a courageous and determined wife and mother, a widow, and a powerful storyteller while living through the Italian invasion and occupation, the restoration and eventual end of the Ethiopian Empire under Haile Selassie, revolution, and civil war.
“What brings this narrative flaring to life[...] is [...] its imagination and novelistic tone; Edemariam’s prose climbs inside Yetemegnu’s memories to inhabit them and bring her solidly, vividly, to life.” (The Guardian)
“... pulses spectacularly with heart and soul, vividly depicting one inimitable woman centred within the swirling winds of politics, religion, patriotism and change.” (Sabrina Mahfouz, British-Egyptian poet and playwright; Ondaatje Prize judge)
The Shadow King: A Novel
By Maaza Mengiste
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2019)
ISBN-10: 039308356X, 03933585
ISBN-13: 978-0393083569, 978-0393358513
Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Amid domestic tensions in the household of a tyrannical master and mercurial mistress, an orphaned servant-girl quietly contrives private acts of revolt, eventually gaining the strength of character and courage to join the Ethiopian resistance to Mussolini’s invasion and occupation (1935-36), first as a field nurse, then as a woman warrior inspiring others to take up arms, and finally surviving as a prisoner of war.
“[T]he reader feels [...] in the steady hands of a master. ... [A]ll this grandeur, all this grace, is in the service of a tale of a woman, Hirut, as indelible and compelling a hero as any I’ve read in years. This novel made me feel pity and fear, and more times than is reasonable, gave me goose bumps.” (Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift, in The New York Tines Book Review, October 13, 2019)
“A memorable portrait of a people at war—a war that has long demanded recounting from an Ethiopian point of view.” (Kirkus)
“The importance of memory — of those that came before us, and of things we'd rather forget — is at the heart of The Shadow King, [...] a sprawling, unforgettable epic from an immensely talented author who's unafraid to take risks. [...] The star of the novel [...] is Mengiste's gorgeous writing, which makes 'The Shadow King' nearly impossible to put down.” (Michael Schaub, NPR)