Women At War Form The Heart Of ‘The Shadow King’
Library Text by Vivek Tejuja. Photographed by Joshua Navalkar So here we are, at the last draft of the Booker shortlist - the Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste. The book which is about war, or rather sings about it (given the lyrical nature of its prose) and portrays people's lives in the midst of something […]

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Text by Vivek Tejuja. Photographed by Joshua Navalkar

So here we are, at the last draft of the Booker shortlist - the Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste. The book which is about war, or rather sings about it (given the lyrical nature of its prose) and portrays people's lives in the midst of something as big and unnecessary as war.

The king of shadows tells the story of Hirut, a young Ethiopian maid who finds herself on the battlefield. She and an anonymous cook work in the house of a man named Kidane and his wife, Aster. And then the war comes - the Second Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935 when Italy attempted to colonize Ethiopia. The book is about how Hirut, Aster, and the cook became warriors for a king who doesn't exist (trust me, I don't give anything). It is about their inner life and how they go through war in relation to their love and hatred for each other, and the men who brought them to this state.

Women in wartime - any war: against themselves, against one of their own (mostly men, and sometimes other women) and the people who want to conquer them - form the heart of this novel. Mengiste gives context to both the first and second Italo-Ethiopian wars, past and present, but she does not take away from what it is like to be a woman in wartime.

This book made me discover a facet of African history that I did not know before. Not to mention the interweaving of the choir voices with the chapters (inspired by the tradition of oral storytelling in Africa) and the interludes that offer diverse perspectives, inducing that of a sadistic Italian colonel. Every footprint of every woman involved in the war is recorded. We often forget certain stories and points of history - perhaps because of our convenience or perhaps because of sheer ignorance. However, for this I say we need more books like The king of shadows, which show us what we need to be more understanding and empathetic.

The king of shadows is a book bigger than itself; it is a country on the verge of change, the sighs, songs and cries of women who will not be stifled. Mengiste writes about women who are fighters and how they always have been, whether they like it or not. They do what they have to, not only to survive, but also to try to make sense of life once it's all over.


In this column, Vivek Tejuja offers personal reflections and critical insights into a wide selection of literature. In the last few weeks, he has been focus on this year's Booker's shortlist, introspect the work of each writer and what lies between the lines.



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Aim to eat real food that’s made of whole food ingredients you would have in your own kitchen pantry, or that your grandmother would recognize. ( Yup, this rules out most packaged food, sorry ! ) This is a little different than suggesting you eat only “health foods” ( many of which are increasingly processed ! ). “Real food” includes unprocessed foods like an apple, a cucumber, soybeans or a steak, as well as foods loosely processed from one ( or few ) real-food ingredients, like butter, olive oil, yogurt, tofu, etc. In other words, aim for foods that could be reasonably made in your own kitchen and avoid foods that can only be made in a lab.

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Green smoothies as a snack or simple, on-the-go breakfast are an easy way to get your greens in each day. Check out our curated list of healthy ( veggie-packed ! ) smoothie recipes for our favorite starter green smoothie recipe ideas.

“The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. ” It’s true—mindset is everything ! Cultivate a positive mindset by recognizing negative thought patterns and countering them with positive thoughts or affirmations. Here are more mindset resources for positive thinking.

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. But in addition to quantity, quality of sleep matters too ! Follow our tips on getting quality sleep—things like keeping your bedroom cool at night, avoiding blue light after dark, and more.

{Start each day with fulfilling activities that set the tone for how you want to feel—whether that’s inspired, relaxed, productive, or something else.

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