Published in 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze – Maaza Mengiste’s debut novel – is about the Ethiopian revolution which begun in 1974, during the last days of Emperor Haile Selassie’s long rule. At the time, Haile Selassie’s government had lost public confidence following a famine in Wello province. The story begins as a young man lies on the operating table with a bullet in his back. He is a student protestor, among the many that are involved in the uprising to throw Selassie out of power.
Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but left her homeland at a young age, when her family fled the Ethiopian Revolution. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze was published in January 2010, and was recently named Runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In this interview, she talks about her writing, and why it is important to tell the stories of individuals who are often the faceless victims of wars and other tragedies.