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Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopiaby Tim Bascom
Synopses & Reviews
In 1964, at the age of three, Tim Bascom is thrust into a world of eucalyptus trees and stampeding baboons when his family moves from the Midwest to Ethiopia. The unflinchingly observant narrator of this memoir reveals his missionary parents struggles in a sometimes hostile country. Sent reluctantly to boarding school in the capital, young Tim finds that beyond the gates enclosing that peculiar, isolated world, conflict roils Ethiopian society. When secret riot drills at school are followed with an attack by rampaging students near his parents' mission station, Tim witnesses the disintegration of his familys African idyll as Haile Selassies empire begins to crumble.
Like Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Chameleon Days chronicles social upheaval through the keen yet naive eyes of a child. Bascom offers readers a fascinating glimpse of missionary life, much as Barbara Kingsolver did in The Poisonwood Bible.
"In 1964, three-year-old Bascom and his two brothers were uprooted from Kansas via Missouri by their missionary parents and taken to the family's personal Oz — Ethiopia. Bascom's father was a doctor, and the family went first to an established mission hospital in Soddo, then in 1967 to a nascent outpost in Liemo. In Ethiopia, Tim and his older brother, Johnathan, attended boarding school — American children walled in from their African neighbors. Bascom's recollections of moments and conversations from his childhood are narrated with delightfully puerile wonder. Memories of a pet chameleon, a banquet with the emperor, the descent of winged termites, a hideaway high in an avocado tree and the cry of hyenas outside the bedroom window on Christmas Eve are apt to remind adult readers of their own less exotic youthful discoveries and stoke the imaginations of older children and young adults. Such precision in voice earned Bascom the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference Bakeless Prize, and his smartly nave observations grow more sophisticated as the country succumbs to political unrest in the 1970s and missionary life becomes uncertain. Nostalgic but not overwrought, Bascom's memoir is accented with casual family snapshots like ribbons on the gift of a gently captured place in time. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A stirring tribute to a turbulent, beautifully evoked era." Kirkus Reviews
"I wish Bascom had used his boyhood as a springboard to turn his obvious talents toward his parents' challenging, ill-fated work in a country that had outgrown emperors and missionaries." Seattle Times
"[An] exceptional book." KLIATT
At the age of three, in 1964, Tim Bascom is thrust into a world of eucalyptus trees and stampeding baboons when his family moves from the Midwest to Ethiopia. Unflinchingly observant, young Tim reveals his missionary parents' struggles in a sometimes hostile country.
About the Author
Tim Bascom spent much of his childhood in Ethiopia, where his father, a doctor, worked in mission hospitals. A graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, he has been published in The Best American Travel Writing. He lives in Newton, Iowa, with his wife and two sons.
Table of Contents
Part One Baboons on a Cliff 3 The Chameleon Looked Both Ways 11 A Vocabulary for My Senses 15 The Letters She Wrote 22 The Emperors Smile 29 Birth Order 36 Bushwhacking 42 In My Fathers House 55 My Brothers Keeper 63 Blessed Assurance 67 Come or Go? 72 Castaways 79
Part Two Wave Goodbye 87 Cinders 94 Code of Conduct 98 Waiting Games 106 Candy Day 111 Moon Landing 118 My World, Their World 132 Sent Back 142 And Ill Fly Away 146 What Kind of Children? 152 My Pilgrim Progress 161 The Volcanic Lake 168 Riot Drill 178 Besieged 183 Hidden Agendas 190 Pigeon Fever 202 Warning Signs 214 Lost Armor 221
Epilogue 230 Further Reading 237 Acknowledgments 23
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