A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times: Stories

The characters in Meron Hadero's sharp-eyed debut collection of 15 short stories, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, often find themselves caught between worlds. Whether arriving in the U.S. to pursue an education ("Medallion"), visiting family in Addis Ababa and feeling out of place ("The Suitcase"), or conversing with an elderly German neighbor in Iowa ("The Wall"), Hadero's characters are keenly aware of the contrasts between the places they have left and the places they inhabit. As they engage in "this most sacred and difficult task of staying put," they rely on their communities, which are often makeshift but become vital in keeping them grounded where they are.

While most of Hadero's characters have suffered and sacrificed to arrive in their new homes (or even to visit their children abroad), her stories focus on what happens after arrival: the bewildering blur of new customs and languages, the casual racism and mystifying paperwork, the layers of confusion and discrimination they must push through to build a home. Yet her characters find ways to make ends meet, and sometimes to thrive, in these unfamiliar settings.

From the crowded streets of Addis Ababa to the basketball courts of Brooklyn, Hadero--who was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. as a child refugee--explores displacement, immigration, the plight of refugees and the deeply human longing for home and community. Told with fierce honesty and compassion, Madero's collection lives up to its title, providing a flavorful, nourishing feast. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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