Maaza Mengiste salutes the soldiers written out of history in her captivating exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.

Ethiopia. 1935. With the threat of an Italian invasion looming, the commanders of Emperor Haile Selassie’s army rush to mobilise their strongest men. Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Haile Selassie goes into exile, Hirut devises a plan to maintain morale. She disguises a peasant as the emperor and becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms.

The 2020 Booker Prize
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Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste

About the Author

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is the author of The Shadow King and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze.
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Nina Sosanya reads Maaza Mengiste's The Shadow King


Actor Nina Sosanya performs a reading from 2020 Booker Prize-shortlisted author Maaza Mengiste’s book, The Shadow King.

This was originally streamed during The Booker Prize 2020 winner ceremony.

The Shadow King

It was all the things I didn’t know, about something I thought I understood, that sent me to my desk and kept me there, writing