“What is profound about fiction is that it creates a place where we can imagine the possible futures of these kinds of movements. Those are the kinds of questions we have to ask as writers.”
Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist whose work examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of photography and violence. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, her critically acclaimed debut novel, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and was named one of the best books of 2010 by Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and other publications. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and lived in Nigeria and Kenya before moving to the United States.
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is set in Ethiopia in the 1970s and revisits the last days of the Ethiopian monarchy and the brutal beginnings of the Derg, the socialist military junta that replaced it. The story focuses on the Hailu family as they struggle to make difficult choices within a political climate that grows increasingly complex and dangerous. Kirkus calls Beneath the Lion’s Gaze “an arresting, powerful novel that works on both personal and political levels.”
“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.”
—Claire Messud, Bookforum
A Pushcart Prize nominee who was also named a “New Literary Idol” by New York magazine, Mengiste has written for The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC Radio, and Lettre International, among other places. She was the 2013 Puterbaugh Fellow and a Runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Mengiste was also a writer on the social-activist documentary film Girl Rising, which tells the stories of nine girls around the world, including Azmera, a thirteen-year-old from Ethiopia who refused an early marriage and whom Mengiste befriended while working on the project. The film features the voices of actors such as Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchett. It is part of the Girl Rising project, a global action campaign for girls’ education and empowerment.
Mengiste currently serves on the boards of Words Without Borders and Warscapes. Her highly anticipated second novel, The Shadow King, is forthcoming. She lectures on creative writing at Princeton.
For more information on Maaza Mengiste, please visit http://maazamengiste.com.