In Meron Hadero’s short story collection A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, Ethiopian emigrants strive to find their places in the world.
Leaving one’s home country, even for a good reason, takes courage and resilience. So does staying behind. In these stories, Ethiopians navigate the dangers and joys of being themselves and fighting for their dreams among people who don’t understand them and don’t care to. Along the way, they rely on their inner strength and the sometimes unexpected kindness of others to arrive at new understandings of who they are and where they belong.
Hadero’s characters face challenges including racism, crushing misunderstandings, and visits home that remind them of how much they no longer belong, if they ever did. Some of the stories depict these challenges in a lighthearted way, as in “The Thief’s Tale,” in which an old man gets lost in New York and receives help from an unlikely source. Other entries, like “Sinkholes,” about an inappropriate classroom lesson in racism that puts the sole Black student in an impossible position, are harrowing and intense.
In Ethiopia, those who stayed behind deal with the horrors and tragedies that the emigrants left to avoid. In “Kind Stranger,” a man shares how he escaped the authoritarian communist regime of the 1980s with his life, but not his soul. “The Drought that Drowned Us” is even more devastating, about a village caught between natural and human-made disasters. Despite their difficult circumstances, though, these characters find comfort in places like a single friend and a home-cooked meal. Their experiences may be unique, but their desires to live in peace and happiness are universal.
A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is a heartfelt collection about the highs, lows, and ordinary days of Ethiopian life.
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