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Reviews of A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times by Meron Hadero

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times

Stories

by Meron Hadero

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times by Meron Hadero X
A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times by Meron Hadero
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jun 2022, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, Ethiopian American author Meron Hadero's gorgeously wrought stories in A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times offer poignant, compelling narratives of those whose lives have been marked by border crossings and the risk of displacement.

Set across the U.S. and abroad, Meron Hadero's stories feature immigrants, refugees, and those on the brink of dispossession, all struggling to begin again, all fighting to belong. Moving through diverse geographies and styles, this captivating collection follows 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.


This excerpt is a standalone piece called "The Floating House" from the story "Preludes," which encapsulates some of the main themes of A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times.

2. The Floating House

Gashe Ayeloo and Eteye Amsala's house, #372, was next door to Amare's. Gashe Ayeloo's favorite way to waste a little time was to look out his window at people waiting for the bus; after all, his home had an ideal view of this little cul-de-sac branching off MLK. The house was three stories high and so old it seemed about to fall down, but instead it fell up, floating above the street below. Raised just slightly off the ground, quite literally levitating there. The exact height was two inches, according to Gashe Ayeloo. A small amount, but notable nonetheless.

Eteye Amsala was the first to notice. When she was on her way to her car one morning years back just after they moved in, she tripped. Looking around, she didn't see anything that would have made her stumble. Not a stone, not a ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

An atmosphere of generosity and benevolence permeates A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, even in stories that are acerbically funny and direct in their portrayal of racism. In "Mekonnen aka Mack aka Huey Freakin' Newton," an 11-year-old boy named Mekonnen immigrates to New York City with his family in 1989, a period in the city's history in which violence against Black Americans and immigrants was particularly rampant. In the mordantly funny "Sinkholes," a teenager in a Florida classroom in the 1990s watches a horrible scene unfold as the teacher asks the students to take turns coming to the chalkboard and writing a racial slur in a misguided lesson related to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. "The Elders" relates the negotiations among members of an Ethiopian community somewhere in Texas as the eldest and most revered gather to decide where a recently deceased man called "Engineer Paulos" should be buried.

In each of these stories and many others in the collection, Hadero shows characters who are attempting to move decisively through the world when they are lacking in good options...continued

Full Review (948 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
In this impressive debut collection, award-winning Ethiopian American writer Hadero showcases the lives of displaced people trying to create a space for themselves to call home in America and Ethiopia…Hadero's powerful stories usher characters along their searches for belonging, often with nothing but hope and a sense of community pushing them forward.

Foreword Reviews (starred review)
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...A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is a heartfelt collection about the highs, lows, and ordinary days of Ethiopian life.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In her debut story collection, Addis Ababa–born Hadero addresses Ethiopian Americans' struggles for acceptance, the painful ties between present and past, and the elusive meaning of home...A full range of stylistic approaches is on display...Entertaining and affecting stories with a deft lightness of touch.

Publishers Weekly
Ethiopian-American writer Hadero delivers in her illuminating debut collection a series of nuanced perspectives on immigration...Hadero achingly shows how her characters attempt to communicate their regrets, sorrows, and dreams. This assured debut is well worth a look.

Author Blurb Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers
Witty and wistful, complex and heartbreaking, these stories capture lives caught between cultures and continents, past and present, truth and lies. As its displaced characters seek belonging, this collection explores the challenges of connection with empathy and nuance. A thrilling debut.

Author Blurb Maaza Mengiste, author of Booker Prize finalist The Shadow King
This book heralds the arrival of a gifted, stunning writer. A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times held me spellbound, riveted to the compelling characters that walk through these pages, all of them guided by Meron's revelatory and generous examinations of belonging and displacement. These stories unfold with an intensifying power, each of them a testament to what's possible when we move through this world insisting on the potential of hope, and love.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Huey P. Newton

Portrait of Huey Newton sitting in a rattan chair with a rifle and a spear In Meron Hadero's A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, the main character of "Mekonnen aka Mack aka Huey Freakin' Newton" takes his titular nickname from Huey P. Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers were a group of revolutionaries focused on Black liberation in the 1960s-70s. Hadero's character Mekonnen takes Newton's name when he joins a clique of teens in Brooklyn who are interested in studying Black history and fighting racism.

Huey Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1942 and grew up in Oakland, California. While attending Merritt College, he met Bobby Seale, and the two formed what was originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966. They intended for the group ...

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