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Notes from the Hyena’s Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood

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Winner of the Governor General’s AwardA Library Journal Best Book of 2001 Part autobiography and part social history, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and ’80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. “We children lived like the donkey,” Mezlekia remembers,

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Added on: November 6, 2017 - More: Comments & Reviews


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Winner of the Governor General’s Award
A Library Journal Best Book of 2001

Part autobiography and part social history, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and ’80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. “We children lived like the donkey,” Mezlekia remembers, “careful not to wander off the beaten trail and end up in the hyena’s belly.” His memoir sheds light not only on the violence and disorder that beset his native country, but on the rich spiritual and cultural life of Ethiopia itself. Throughout, he portrays the careful divisions in dress, language, and culture between the Muslims and Christians of the Ethiopian landscape. Mezlekia also explores the struggle between western European interests and communist influences that caused the collapse of Ethiopia’s social and political structure―and that forced him, at age 18, to join a guerrilla army. Through droughts, floods, imprisonment, and killing sprees at the hands of military juntas, Mezlekia survived, eventually emigrating to Canada. In Notes from the Hyena’s Belly he bears witness to a time and place that few Westerners have understood.

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Linda Linguvic says:

More than just a story of cruelty, war and terror… This is a memoir of the author’s boyhood and young manhood in Ethiopia. Born in 1958 to a middle-class family in the city of Jijiga, Mr. Mezlekia left Ethiopia in 1980 and is now a professional engineer living in Toronto. Narrated with a light touch and a mixture of myth and fantasy, he opens a world for the western reader that has too long been influenced by nothing more than photos of skeletal images of starving children and grinding poverty. 

Ron says:

Ethiopia and the Dergue My family spent 23 months in Ethiopia during my active duty military service, in a home just a block off the road from His Imperial Majesty’s (Haile Selassie I) palace and the Bole airport in Addis Ababa. That was from February of 1970 until January of 1972. The American community was concerned about the stability of the government there when the Emperor would eventually go the way of all mankind. HIM HSI died after we left, probably suffocated by the new rulers after the Dergue took over the country . Many of us wondered what has happened during the intervening years. This book tells the story from the memories of one student who lived and suffered through those perilous times. It’s very interesting to anyone who ever lived there, and appears authentic.

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