Lucy’s People: An Ethiopian Memoir by Mesfin Tadesse
As a headstrong young man, Mesfin must not merely survive, but must do so without compromising his convictions, or his love of Ethiopia.Ben Claessens, 2021
- We asked Ben to write a review for Google Books. He has a degree in philosophy and linguistics. Now, he is a PhD candidate in Ethics at an illustrious university.
< Lucy’s People offers a humane portrait of modern Ethiopia, etched in the recollections of an astounding life.
Humming with heartfelt energy, Mesfin Tadesse’s memoirs span a transformative and troubled era. Bright and charismatic, Mesfin cuts his teeth under the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I. In horror, he watches the communist Derg coup of 1974, and, alongside his compatriots, struggles to endure the ensuing atrocities. As a headstrong young man, Mesfin must not merely survive, but must do so without compromising his convictions, or his love of Ethiopia.
Engaging to the last, Lucy’s People runs the gamut of human emotion. It strikes the tone of an affectionate elegy, such that it feels, at one moment, warmly descriptive, and at yet another, quietly indignant. In this manner, it weaves between the personal and the political: a feat widely accomplished with playful, acerbic wit. Readers can expect an appetising dose of flavourful detail, but without fear of excessive nostalgia or sentimentality. The storytelling remains consistently inventive, and rewards with gripping vignettes starring spirited personalities. These memoirs thereby tell the story of many – a story of resilient compassion and defiant pride.
The result is compelling; Lucy’s People skilfully documents an intimate perspective on an ethically complex time and place.
This review was based on a complimentary pre-release copy of ISBN 978-0-6488287-2-3.
Ben Claessens >
2. The following is from a customer of Amazon.com.
<A powerful memoir. Through Mesfin’s eyes and pen we are introduced to Ethiopia’s turbulent and complex history: the wars, massacres, famine, occupation by Italian Fascist’s followed by the brutal regime of the communist Derg. This is balanced by simultaneously introducing us to the rich religious, spiritual and cultural life of Ethiopia. The daily lives of Ethiopian people of a certain time and place are descriptively told, the contribution of monks and rabbis to Ethiopian culture, recollections of life under Emperor Haile Selassie 1 and the many friends and family who influenced his life are included.
The author grows up in an environment of constant threat of enlistment, imprisonment, torture and uncertainty and yes he does face all these. Yet, despite all this he retains his humanity and is determined to follow through with his dreams. He later studies Design and Engineering specialising in water development. It is perhaps his bright mind, love of his family and strong bonds of friendship which give him constant hope and get him through some of the toughest times any human can face. There is a line in the book where he quotes his mother. “The dark side of life cannot be avoided. Put it away. Make your daily life full of spice. Do not waste life.”>
This review is from Ethiopia. Though about the 1st edition, it is more relevant than ever.
< In 13 years, I have not read an Ethiopian book like this one. It is genuine and tells the truth fearlessly. Amazingly, this story has come to us from Australia.
For more than 4 centuries, Arabic nations and Europe have frequently been hostile towards Ethiopia. They have proven to be a unique enemy to Lucy’s people. This is because they are unforgiving. Today, Europeans, Americans and Middle Easterners attack in many ways.
Recently, they have been a huge headache. For example, we have not been left in peace to build a dam on our own Blue Nile River. It starts in the middle of Ethiopia, crosses Sudan and flows to Egypt, yet they oppose our own hydroelectricity and irrigation project for agriculture.
The authors of Lucy’s People: An Ethiopian Memoir reside in Australia. Because of this, they have a refreshing perspective on the treatment of Ethiopia by outsiders. Wake up world. Read this book.
___”Around the World.” Review of Lucy’s People: An Ethiopian Memoir, by Mesfin Tadesse & Ianet Bastyan. Justice Magazine, May 1-2, 2020. Translated by Mesfin Tadesse. >
Mesfin Tadesse was born in Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I. In Addis Ababa, he thrived at Jubilee In Palace School. His mother was a nurse. Mama Teliqwa the patriot was his grandmother. His father was a colonel and military teacher. All were decorated war heroes.
During the communist revolution, the Derg murdered Mesfin’s father. The teenager supported the hungry family, surviving persecution. He accelerated through school. At the age when kids in the West start rock bands, he graduated from Building College. Military conscription followed. Mesfin trained for the elite Airborne force and fought in wars.
He won a United Nations Development Programme scholarship to study in Egypt. Mesfin qualified as a water development civil engineer. He worked in construction and water technology engineering in Ethiopia.
With the fall of the communist Derg, Mesfin and his wife fled chaos. He worked for UNHCR and UNICEF, supplying water to Africa’s refugees. Mesfin then emigrated to New Zealand and Australia. In Australia, he is a registered master builder.
Ianet Bastyan is an Australian-born teacher & librarian. Ethiopia’s Rift Valley was the cradle of civilisation. There, archaeologists unearthed the 3.2-million-year-old fossil of Lucy. Yet libraries stocked few Ethiopian books.
Mesfin told her about Queen Saba. Ianet said, ‘What is it like to live in Ethiopia?’ In 2016, they visited, then wrote his inspirational memoir.
Her grandfathers were soldiers and farmers. They shared insights about war. Resourceful people, like Ethiopians, they faced the 1930s Depression – nothing compared to survival under the Derg.
Author photos by Ianet & Mesfin, 2017 & 2020
Under the Pump: Water for Refugees by Mesfin Tadesse.
Series: Saba and Lucy’s People
Yerada Lij Australia
Location: Wilson, Western Australia 6107
Ingram Spark, self-publishing service
Featured image: From front cover of ‘Lucy’s People’ 2nd edition © Yerada Lij Australia, 2021