Born in Addis Ababa, NEA fellow Maaza Mengiste (The Shadow King) takes readers home to "a growing city taking shape beneath the fraught weight of history, myth, and memory." As one of the editors for Akashic Books' ongoing Noir series, Mengiste gathers "some of Ethiopia's most talented writers living in the country and abroad" and presents 14 intriguing tales in Addis Ababa Noir.
Vicious revenge looms in three of the collection's most memorable contributions: an unrequited lover twice betrays the object of his devotion in Meron Hadero's "Kind Stranger"; a daughter avenges her mother's attempted murder in Hannah Giorgis's "A Double-Edged Inheritance"; an abused orphan refuses to be bartered away in Mikael Awake's "Father Bread."
Women seeking agency are punished in Sulaiman Addonia's "A Night in Bela Sefer" and again in Linda Yohannes's "Kebele ID." Searching for missing answers from her childhood urges a Toronto woman home to Addis, accompanied by a colleague, in Rebecca Fisseha's "Ostrich," while identifying the remains of the disappeared haunts Mengiste's own "Dust, Ash, Flight," undoubtedly the collection's most accomplished story. The dead won't stay dead in Mahtem Shifferaw's "The Blue Shadow," nor in Lelissa Girma's "Insomnia"; some don't even seem to exist in Girma T. Fantaye's "Of the Poet and the Café." Innocent victims pay dearly in Solomon Hailemariam's "None of Your Business" and Teferi Nigussie Tafa's "Agony of the Congested Heart."
As is often the case with anthologies, quality varies, but the standouts ensure evocative glimpses into a bustling, multi-ethnic, multilingual metropolis few in the West will have visited. "These are not gentle stories," Mengiste warns, but promises "something wholly original--and unsettling." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon