Book Review: Maaza Mengiste’s Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

If I had to stack Beneath the Lion’s Gaze on a shelf, I’d put it in the “historical fiction” category.  The Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste’s first novel is more about history than story, more about facts than poetry, more about politics than love.  In a recent interview on World Literature Today, Mengiste confessed that she … Continue reading

Five Months

In the beginning of my Peace Corps service, I marked each passing month with a set of goals. This month I’ll order a sofa. This month I’ll run 5 kilometers. This month I’ll bake a cake from scratch. Setting goals within the span of four weeks seemed like a good enough way to measure time. … Continue reading

The Banana Thief

It happens when I’m on my sofa reading, sipping chai, or whatsapping a friend.  There’s music playing (my current obsession a soulful i-tunes genius mix based on Rachael Yamagata’s “Duet”) or maybe just the birds’ morning melody on repeat.  Sometimes I hear a soft knock on the door, but usually it’s just footsteps and heavy … Continue reading

By the numbers (India)

150: cost of Vogue India magazine (in Indian rupees) 17: hour layover in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 9: small emeralds on silver ring purchased in Udaipur 8: days reunited with former host families 3: signed books from Jaipur literature festival 2: travel buddies from Ethiopia 1: last minute decision to fly south to Kerala

Letting Go

I returned to Adaba last Thursday just after dusk.  The electricity was out around town and I didn’t have the light of a cell phone to guide my footpath.  Though I practically know the town’s plot by heart, I was still scared to walk home with my big blue backpack in the dark. After a … Continue reading

The Funeral Tent

How do you tell the story of a child dying? How do you make sense of an accident, freaky and real?  Where do you place the blame of life? Two nights ago, I was sitting in Ababeya’s house.  I was going to watch MTV with Hanuk, but the electricity went out.  So we ate bread … Continue reading


He is sitting on the overhang of the cement foundation on which the school stands.  “Henok,” I say.  “Eat your biscuits.”  It is a Sunday afternoon.  The Protestant church across the street erupts with scattered “Amen”s and soulful wails.  Henok is not eating the cappuccino-flavored biscuits I bought him at the roadside souk on the … Continue reading