About the Book
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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.
"Exquisite ….Sentences infused with attitude throw gut punches that land with enough power to bring on tears."
—Daphne Kalotay, The Washington Post
“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.”
—Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers
“Debut books don’t get much stronger than this. Meron Hadero’s remarkable stories explore a diverse cast of people doing their best to find acceptance or at least stability…Hadero is deeply perceptive; her dialogue always rings true, and the regard she has for her characters is apparent. This isn’t just an excellent first book, it’s an excellent book, period.”
—Michael Schaub, NPR Best Books 2022: Books We Love
“This book heralds the arrival of a gifted, stunning writer. A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times held me spellbound…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.”
—Maaza Mengiste, author of Booker Prize finalist The Shadow King
“This richly detailed, subtly impressionistic short-story collection—by the first Ethiopian-born writer to win the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing—pulls at threads of geography, language, generation, race, and gender…Hadero’s page shines…expanding instead of narrowing the range and representation of immigrant experiences.”
—Daniel King, Mother Jones
"Meron Hadero's collection, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times brims with lives on the margins…This style, which time and time again comes off the page as truly effortless, is what makes Hadero a new master of the form, and this collection a masterful one."
—Chigozie Obioma, author of Booker Prize finalists An Orchestra of Minorities and The Fishermen
“Intricate and precise, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times casts a glimmering light into the most elusive corners of estrangement which all migrants—torn between past and present, home and journey—come to know…A powerful, unforgettable collection.”
—Ingrid Rojas Contreras, bestselling author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree
“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 in these stories…. Entertaining and affecting stories with a deft lightness of touch.”
—Kirkus Reviews, 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.”
—Emily Park, Booklist, Starred Review
“Meron Hadero’s dazzling short stories span the diaspora, poignantly portraying characters in search of opportunity and belonging. Rich with insight, compassion, and wit, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is an unforgettable debut.”
—Vanessa Hua, bestselling author of A River of Stars and Forbidden City
“With enormous power and wonderful subtlety, Meron Hadero grants us access to the inner worlds of people at moments when everything is at risk. In the stories that make up A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, the emotional stakes are high….these sharp, humane, beautiful portraits are a gift.”
—Dinaw Mengestu, Achy Obejas, and Ilan Stavans, from the judges’ citation
“Although she’s concerned with specific geographies, Hadero creates a remarkable universal resonance, exquisitely illuminating quotidian moments that could, and do, happen anywhere in the world where people long to belong.... [A] stupendous collection…. From narrative to narrative, Hadero is a wondrously agile writer.”
—Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Best Books of June
“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…. Their experiences may be unique, but their desires to live in peace and happiness are universal. A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is a heartfelt collection about the highs, lows, and ordinary of Ethiopian life.”
—Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
“Meron Hadero’s A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times is an astonishing debut….If the danger faced by those who live on the anxious edge of societies, whether in Ethiopia or Germany or the United States, is not always—or even often—recognized, Hadero suggests, the signs are present long before they’re understood. In A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, she has crafted a profound collection that identifies this sensibility while also, in its overflow of stories, signaling the hope of a teller that a good listener will be ready to receive them.”
—Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal
“It is the dignity that makes this collection a stunner.”
—Lauren Francis-Sharma, San Francisco Chronicle
“The dispossessed peoples of the world are explored in Ethiopian-born Hadero’s dazzling new story collection…Each story has a lyrical power. As the author says: '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.’ She is definitely a writer to watch.”
—Melanie Fleishman, The Center for Fiction