Exclusive Interview with Ethiopia-America Writer Maaza Mingiste

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By: Mohamed Duale

Maaza Mengiste (born 1974) is an Ethiopian-American writer and author of the 2010 novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze and The Shadow King.

Mengiste has published fiction and nonfiction dealing with migration, the Ethiopian revolution, and the plight of sub-Saharan immigrants arriving in Europe. Her debut novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze – the story of a family struggling to survive the tumultuous and bloody years of the Ethiopian Revolution – was named one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian and translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, and Swedish. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe New YorkerGrantaLettre InternationaleEnkare ReviewCallalooThe Granta Anthology of the African Short Story, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She was runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and a finalist for a Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, an NAACP Image Award, and an Indies Choice Book of the Year Award in Adult Debut. In 2013 she was World Literature Today’s Puterbaugh Fellow. She counts among her influences E. L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Edith Wharton.

Mengiste has also been involved in human rights work. She serves on the advisory board of Warscapes, an independent online magazine that highlights current conflicts across the world, and is affiliated with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.[8] Mengiste also serves on the Board of Directors for Words without Borders.

Alongside Edwidge Danticat and Mona Eltahawy, Mengiste contributed a section to Richard E. Robbins’s 2013 documentary film Girl Rising on girl’s education around the world for 10×10 Films, with narration by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Alicia Keys, and Cate Blanchett.

Mengiste teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Queens College, City University of New York,[10] and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

She is currently finished her second novel, The Shadow King. As invited participants to 2019, The Hargeysa International Book Fair,  Horndiplomat’s Chief Editor Mohamed Duale had the opportunity for this exclusive interview shortly before she left.

© Horn Diplomat 2019

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