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Meron Hadero recently has become the first Ethiopian author to win the prestigious AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, however not many people may know who is she. Read on to learn more about the AKO Caine winner.
Meron Hadero is an Ethiopian-American who was born in Addis Ababa and came to the U.S. via Germany as a young child. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, a JD from Yale, and a BA in history from Princeton. She won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing in 2020. She has published extensively on major literary platforms. Last year, her story “Kind Stranger” was published in Addis Ababa Noir, the critically acclaimed anthology of Ethiopian crime stories edited by Maaza Mengiste. Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, Best American Short Stories, among others.
Her parents are both medical doctors and her sister is the singer Meklit Hadero, whose support was “absolutely essential” to her success, Hadero had said in an interview.
Hadero, whose short story “The Street Sweep” was shortlisted among four others, becomes the first Ethiopian to win the highly coveted and equally competitive literary prize for African writers. However, this is not her first time competing, as her short story, “The Wall,” was shortlisted in 2019. “The Street Sweep” features a young optimistic man, Getu, his mother and an American expatriate, Jeff Johnson. Getu is hopeful that Jeff Johnson will consider their friendship and change his ragged life into great fortunes. However, Getu’s mother is cynical and sceptical at the same time, as she looks at Jeff and the NGOs in their locality as nothing less of scams.
Hadero explores the interracial dynamics in a postcolonial nation-state of Ethiopia. She presents the non-existent relationship between the Ethiopians and the Euro-American workers in Ethiopia, offering us a peek into the classicism that is widespread in such a society.
In an interview, Hadero talks about her story as part of her forthcoming debut short collection ‘A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times’ focusing on immigrants, refugees and those facing displacement. In these stories, “I’m drawn to the idea of home, and the characters face the loss of it, or they’re trying to find it, or seek it out, dream of it, fight for it, abandon it, are abandoned by it. This story can be seen in the context of the collection with Getu on the precipice of losing his family home. That threat drives the narrative, and sees Getu trying to take control of his fate and set out on what he’s told is an impossible mission”.
The consistency of writing for Hadero has been a steadying force in an unpredictable time as she is working on stories that will be part of her forthcoming book, and she has been editing them for some time now so she is going back to characters, themes, plots that have been with her for a while.
For Hadero writing allows her a way to stay connected (to readers, writers, ideas) even during the pandemic. In this time, she says she developed a deeper, greater appreciation for the role writing plays in her life.