Addis Ababa, September 12, 1974: a date few Americans remember, but for Ethiopians it was the first day of a new year and the last day of Emperor Haile Selassie’s long reign. As the public discontent intensified, Selassie – blamed for decades of famine and corruption – is abandoned by his servants and cabinet members.
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While the emperor quietly reflects upon his final moments in power, the struggle for a new Ethiopia arrives swiftly and without mercy. Hundreds of protestors take to the streets, demanding food and a people’s government for all. Focusing on the lives of three determined members of one family, Mengiste’s gripping debut novel looks closely at the ties that bind family and country, and the sacrifices made in pursuit of justice and a life of dignity. An important work of literature, it is both timely and unforgettable. Illustrating the lengths each member is willing to go, the loyalties they must betray, and the hardships they must endure to ensure their country’s freedom from oppression, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is a dramatic and tragic story that is ultimately inspirational.
“An extraordinary novel [that] tells stories that nobody can want to hear, in such a way that we cannot stop listening.” — Bookforum