cover image A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times

Meron Hadero. Restless, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63206-118-8

Ethiopian-American writer Hadero delivers in her illuminating debut collection a series of nuanced perspectives on immigration. In “The Elders,” which takes place during the funeral for an Ethiopian immigrant in Texas, a mourner asks, “Can we really let others define what it means to belong? For any of us?” Hadero excels at creating small moments with high stakes such as these, investigating the minefield of interrelations and frictions her characters face amid competing cultural imperatives. There’s also Getu, the 18-year-old hero of “The Street Sweep,” who seeks an escape from the drudgery of his job in an Ethiopian city and financial stability for himself and his mother. Getu’s hopes are briefly raised by a friendly if deceptive NGO staffer, and the encounter offers a disappointing lesson. In the beautiful title story, two Ethiopian women living in New York City go through recipes from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, a ritual Hadero describes “as a sort of superstitious offering... to pay homage to this most sacred and difficult task of staying put.” Throughout, Hadero achingly shows how her characters attempt to communicate their regrets, sorrows, and dreams. This assured debut is well worth a look. Agent: Julia Kardon, HG Literary. (May)