The Ethiopian American writer Meron Hadero’s debut short story collection A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is forthcoming in May 2022, from New-York based Restless Books.
In July, Hadero won the £10,000 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, for her short story “The Street Sweep” (ZYZZYVA, 2018). It made her the first Ethiopian writer to win the prize since its inception in 2000.
Here is a description of her collection:
Set across the U.S. and abroad, Meron Hadero’s stories feature characters who are immigrants, refugees, and those facing dislocation, all struggling to begin again, all fighting to belong. Moving through diverse geographies and styles, these captivating narratives follow characters on the journey toward home, which they dream of, create and redefine, lose and find and make their own. Beyond migration, these stories examine themes of race, gender, class, friendship and betrayal, the despair of loss and the enduring resilience of hope.
Winner of the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, “The Street Sweep” is about an enterprising young man on the verge of losing his home in Addis Ababa who pursues an improbable opportunity to turn his life around. Appearing in Best American Short Stories, “The Suitcase” follows a woman visiting her country of origin for the first time and finds that an ordinary object opens up an unexpected, complex bridge between worlds.
Shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize, “The Wall” portrays the intergenerational friendship between two refugees living in Iowa who have connections to Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. A Best American Short Stories notable, “Mekonnen aka Mack aka Huey Freakin’ Newton” is a coming-of-age tale about an Ethiopian immigrant in Brooklyn encountering nuances of race in his new country.
Kaleidoscopic, powerful, and illuminative, the stories in A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times expand our understanding of the essential and universal need for connection and the vital refuge of home—and announce a major new talent in Meron Hadero.
Hadero’s collection will arrive two years after its manuscript, then titled Preludes, won the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. The prize judges—Dinaw Mengestu, Achy Obejas, and Ilan Stavans—praised its “enormous power and wonderful subtlety.”
“Language springs up from a story, so the story will give you the language to use,” Hadero said in an interview with Open Country Mag. “To be receptive to what the story needs, I try to step back and almost hear what the story sounds like from a reader’s point of view.”
It is part of her creative process. “There can be something very musical about a story when it comes together,” she said. “Even the words we use to describe it—the voice of the piece, the tone of the story, the pacing of the narrative—can feel musical, too. I had an editor once suggest reading a story aloud, I think partly as a way to slow down to really see each word, but maybe also to try to hear the piece, hear the music of the story. I try to do that with my stories, hear the music of the language.”