2013 Puterbaugh Fellow Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste is a Fulbright Scholar and the author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (W. W. Norton, 2010), named by the Guardian one of the ten best contemporary African books. The novel is the epic tale of a father and two sons and a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s 1974 revolution. It has been translated into several languages and appeared on a number of “Best of 2010” lists, including Publishers Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, and Boston Globe. She was a runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize as well as a finalist for a Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, an NAACP Image Award, and an Indies Choice Book of the Year Award in Adult Debut. 

Her work has appeared in the New York Times, BBC Radio 4, the Guardian, Granta, and Lettre International, among other places. She has also received fellowships from the Emily Harvey Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Prague Summer Program, and Yaddo. She teaches at Princeton University and in the Queens College CUNY MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation. She lives in New York. 

Mengiste is also one of nine contributing writers to the film Girl Rising, which uses powerful storytelling “to deliver a simple, critical truth: educate girls and you will change the world” ( In the film, which had its Oklahoma premiere at the 2013 Puterbaugh Festival, she tells the story of Azmera, a thirteen-year-old Ethiopian girl who refuses an early marriage. Mengiste has also written about the current Ethiopian diaspora in Italy and elsewhere. 

Mengiste’s second novel, The Shadow King, is due out from W. W. Norton in 2014. An exclusive excerpt appears on page 52 of this issue.