Ethiopian English books worthwhile to read

Ethiopian English books worthwhile to read

The history of Ethiopian modern Literature has no more of a century of existence. Most books are written in Amharic and do not get the opportunity to be read by foreigners.

Some African countries have made a remarkable achievement in introducing their literatures to the international readership. Wolle Soynka and Chinua Achebe are now the symbol of African literatures.

There have also been some efforts to reach out to foreign readers by Ethiopian writers. And some renowned writers have enjoyed international recognition in writing in English. Best examples are poet Tsegaye Gebremedhin who had made astonishing achievements writing a play “Oda Oka Oracle”, Dagnachew Worku the writer of “the thirteenth sun” and Sahile Sillassie Birhanemaryam the writer of “The Afersata”.

In this piece, I would like to introduce you to the works of contemporary writers whose literary contributions are duly appreciated.

The beautiful things that Heaven Bears


`This book by Dinaw Mengistu is about the life of an Ethiopian immigrant, Sepha Stephanos and his experience in the United States. The main character of the book Sepha left his country at the age of seventeen after seeing his father beaten to death during the Red Terror, the book actually speaks more than the Ethiopian experience; it also covers the experience of all African Immigrants.

Sepha stuggles to reconcile the contradictory feeling he has about leaving Ethiopia and becoming an American. When he first arrived as a refugee, he lived for a short while with his uncle in an apartment building that was predominantly occupied by Ethiopians. His situation exposed him to have some difficulty with the Ethiopian community.

The book has been translated into 12 languages and is named a New York Times Notable Book. The writer has received awards such as the guardian first Book award and Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award.

Dinaw left Ethiopia at the age of two with his family. He graduated with a BA degree from Georgetown University and got his MFA (master of fine arts) in fiction from Colombia University.

Tower in the sky


Hiwot Tefera’s book “Tower in the sky” is “the story of love, revolution, dreams, violence, terror, trust, betrayal, tragedy, disillusionment, self-transformation and the triumphal power of the human spirit.”

The book is based on her real story. She was one of the active youth revolutionary members of Ethiopian People revolutionary Party (EPRP). The book assesses the struggle of the EPRP. The central character of the book is Getachew Maru the founder of the group ABYOT and later, EPRP.

Published by Addis Ababa University Press in 2012, the book is widely acclaimed. Her writing style has enormous power to engage and captivate any reader. One of the reasons for the success of the book is that it has captured real experiences of a person actively involved in the political struggle of the time.

“Tower in the sky” is not only the story of Getachew Maru and me. The book depicts the story of that generation who was rebellious, full of dreams and paid a great sacrifice in a certain moment in history.” said Hiwot Tefera in her speech made at Addis Ababa University last year.

Notes from the Hayna’s Belly


The writer of “Notes from the Hayna’s belly” tells his memory in his book. The writer recalls his childhood in Jigjiga during the Hailesselassie rule, and his youth in brutal reign of Lt.Col. Mengistu Hailemariam. The firs pages of the book narrate about early days of his childhood, which is full of pranks and folk tales.

The book gives an understanding of Ethiopia during the time of the emperor. The tradition, customs, ways of dressing and the social lives of Ethiopians is well portrayed. The book is also influenced by folklore and superstition. You will enjoy Ethiopian tales, Qinea, riddles in the book.

Negas’s memoir is somehow part autobiography and part social history. Not only does it narrate his personal life but also about the reign of Hailesselassie in “Land to the Tiller.” He was also a member of EPRP during Derg.

The book got lots of praise from diverse media. It was a New York Times Editor’s choice and is the winner of the Governor General’s award. Nega’s first novel is “the God who Begat a Jackal”.

Nega left his country Ethiopia in 1983. He now lives In Toronto, Canada.

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Written By Kalkidan Tekliye for Haleta Newspaper.

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