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Beneath the Lion's Gaze
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An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia's revolution.

About the Author

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. A recent Pushcart Prize nominee, she was named "New Literary Idol" by New York Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Ninth Letter and 42opus, has been translated and published into German and Romanian for Lettre International, and can be found in the Seal Press anthology Homelands- Women's Journeys Across Race, Place and Time. She has received fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Yaddo. She currently lives in New York.

Reviews

Ethiopia's 1974 revolution tears a family in half in this striking debut. Drought, famine and mutiny in the military are stretching Emperor Haile Selassie's regime to the breaking point, and when it finally tears, Hailu, a skilled and respected doctor in Addis Ababa, must find a way to shepherd his extended family through the ensuing violence. His task is made no easier by the fact that his son Dawit's fiery youthful convictions place him at odds with his more circumspect older brother, Yonas, a university professor with a wife and child. But when soldiers request Hailu to treat a gruesomely tortured political prisoner, he makes a fateful choice that puts his family in the military junta's crosshairs. Mengiste is as adept at crafting emotionally delicate moments as she is deft at portraying the tense and grim historical material, while her judicious sprinkling of lyricism imbues this novel with a vivid atmosphere that is distinct without becoming overpowering. That the novel subjects the reader to the same feelings of hopelessness and despair that its characters grapple with is a grand testament to Mengiste's talent. (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Mengiste's debut novel follows the lives of a family of four in the violent environment of prewar Ethiopia in 1974. A recent New York University graduate, Mengiste was voted a "new literary idol" by New York magazine and garnered a Pushcart Prize nomination. Her honors do not belie her skill, for this book is stunning. In graphic descriptions and masterly prose, Mengiste sculpts her characters to reflect different aspects of the revolution, from Dawit, who spouts Marxism, to Hailu, a doctor who must deal with the brutal realities of revolution. Verdict Although the depictions of brutality are extensive, they are also realistic and captivating, helping place Lion's Gaze into a small cadre of Ethiopian fiction, including Abraham Verghese's Cutting the Stone and Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly. Fans of historical adult fiction will approve. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/09.]-Shalini Miskelly, Highline Community Coll., Des Moines, WA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Ethiopia's 1974 revolution tears a family in half in this striking debut. Mengiste is as adept at crafting emotionally delicate moments as she is deft at portraying the tense and grim historical material, while her judicious sprinkling of lyricism imbues this novel with a vivid atmosphere.That the novel subjects the reader to the same feelings of hopelessness and despair that its characters grapple with is a grand testament to Mengiste's talent. * Publisher's Weekly *
An arresting, powerful novel that works on both personal and political levels. * Kirkus *
Lucid and compelling... Beneath the Lion's Gaze is an extraordinary novel, which assembles a dauntingly broad cast of characters and, through them, tells stories that nobody can want to hear, in such a way that we cannot stop listening. Although set more than thirty years ago, Mengiste's novel is timely and vital. Its illumination of a world unfamiliar to most shows us how individuals will fight to retain their humanity in the face of atrocity. -- Claire Messud * Bookforum *
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is an important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters -- Lorraine Adams * New York Times Book Review *
Both brilliant and overwhelmingly powerful -- Belinda Otas * New African Woman *

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