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  1. Book ImageBeneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel

    Maaza Mengiste

    "An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters." —The New York Times Book Review

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What role do the lions of the title play in the book? What do they represent?

  2. 2. Why do you think Hailu insists on keeping his wife, Selam, alive when he is willing to let others die in peace?

  3. 3. What is the relationship between suffering and dignity in this book?

  4. 4. Mickey makes a decision to value his family’s safety and comfort over taking a moral stand. What do you think influenced this decision? Do you sympathize with him?

  5. 5. At many points in the book, personal tragedy, such as Tizita’s injury, is contrasted with national tragedy. What are some other examples of this? What is the effect of this contrast?

  6. 6. What does the Emperor represent for the people before the revolution, Mickey in particular? How does that change?

  7. 7. What is the effect of having sections told through the Emperor’s point of view? How is his mindset changed by power?

  8. 8. How do you feel about Hailu’s decision to give poison to his patient? Did your opinion about his actions change over the course of the book?

  9. 9. Dawit has very different ideas about how to act in the face of the Derg than Yonas. Do you think one of their approaches is better than the other? Are there times when you see one brother’s ideas influencing the actions of the other?

  10. 10. Does the author or the novel itself take a side in the political struggle? What makes you think that it does or does not?

  11. 11. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is based on real events that took place in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Do you think a novelist has a responsibility to respond to national tragedies? How have you reacted to novels that take place during events that you’ve lived through?

About Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Fulbright Scholar and professor at Queens College, she is also the author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, named one of the Guardian’s Ten Best Contemporary African Books. She lives in New York City.

Books by Maaza Mengiste

  1. Book CoverBeneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel

    "An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters." —The New York Times Book ReviewMore

  2. Book CoverThe Shadow King: A Novel

    “A brilliant novel, lyrically lifting history towards myth. It’s also compulsively readable. I devoured it in two days.” — Salman RushdieMore