Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King

Maaza Mengiste’s second novel The Shadow King is set during the second Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-7). It tells the story of the Ethiopian women who fought in it and whose version of events have since been deprioritized in historical records.

Born 36 years after the war, the Ethiopian novelist and editor of the anthology Adis Ababa Noir is one of a handful of African writers writing about turbulent times in their nation’s histories which they did not personally experience. As expected, in addition to oral accounts of first-hand witnesses, they would have had to rely on the works of other writers to capture the ambience. Mengiste’s essay, “Writing About the Forgotten Black Women of the Italo-Ethiopian War,” published in Literary Hub, was shortlisted for The 2019 Brittle Paper Award for Essays & Think Pieces.

In a new piece for The Guardian, Mengiste provides a list of the books she consulted before beginning her novel. They include Aminatta Forna’s novel The Memory of Love, Diana Matar’s photo book Evidence, and Angelo Del Boca’s history text The Ethiopian War: 1935-1941.

See the full list here.


Graph image by For Coloured Girls.