Queen of Flowers and Pearls

Queen of Flowers and Pearls

A Novel
Gabriella Ghermandi, translated by Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/19/2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-01547-1
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A World Literature Today notable translation of 2015

Mahlet, a young Ethiopian girl with a gift for storytelling, has a special bond with Yacob, the oldest in her household. When Yacob tells her stories of how he and the other warriors fought in the resistance against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, Mahlet vows to become the keeper and teller of her family’s stories. From the time of Menelik to the present, Mahlet's long voyage through time and space links thousands of stories between Africa and Europe. Intensely personal, this powerful and beautifully narrated novel tells the story of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia as well as of others around the globe who have suffered under colonialism or have been forcibly exiled from their homelands.

Author Bio

Gabriella Ghermandi was born in Addis Ababa and lives in Bologna, Italy. She writes and acts in narrative plays that she produces in Italy and Switzerland. She also conducts creative writing workshops for schools. This is her first novel.

Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi is Professor of Italian Language and Literature at Smith College. She is translator, with Victoria Offredi Poletto of Little Mother (IUP, 2011).

Victoria Offredi Poletto is Senior Lecturer in Italian Emerita at Smith College.


“Vowing to become the keeper and teller of her family’s stories, a young girl's voyage through time and space links Africa and Europe in this intensely personal and beautifully narrated novel.”

“Gabriella Ghermandi is part of an increasingly larger group of so-called Italian 'migrant writers' coming from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who, since the early 1990s, have contributed to Italian culture and language . . . though their input has not been without contention within Italian academia and its canons.”
 — Clarissa Cló

“Gabriella Ghermandi is one of the authors most invested in exploring the postcolonial dimension of contemporary Italian multiculturalism, and she is to my knowledge the only one who has taken on Italy's occupation of Ethiopia as the subject of fiction.”
 — Allison Van Deventer, Harvard University

“Ghermandi weaves personal memory into collective history. . . . Queen of Flowers and Pearls offers a guiding perspective to help us form questions and seek answers from the present as well as the past. Perhaps most hopefully, it makes us consider the current repression in light of the past victories of the Ethiopian citizenry.”
 — Washington Post

“[A] heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel.”
 — Perspectives on History

“Queen of Flowers and Pearls is a wonderful, absorbing new novel that is part of IU Press' Global African Voices. . . [R]eaders can be assured that Mahlet will finally discover herself and her place in the world in the course of some gratifyingly suspenseful chapters. ”

“Ghermandi's patient, rhapsodic compilation reflects Mahlet's own struggle with her identity as an Ethiopian and, when she relocates to Italy for her education, as a foreigner . . . This singular coming-of-age story defined by political upheaval and ancestral secrets introduces a sensitive, perceptive storyteller on the brink of womanhood.”
 — Kirkus Reviews

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Table of Contents

Translators’ Note
List of Amharic Words and Expressions

The Promise
Chapter One
Yacob’s Story
Chapter Two
The Passage
The Advice
The Flower of the Month
The Saturday Market!
The Consent
The First Day of Work
At Legesse’s Shop
The West
Announcement! Announcement!
Arada Sefer
The Move
The First Celebration of Timket in the Capital
The Chaos before the Calm
Return to Debre Zeit
The Departure

The Return
Chapter Three
The Story of the Stupid Lion and the Monkey
Chapter Four
The Story of Abbaba Igira Salo
Chapter Five
Farisa Alula, the Great
Chapter Six
The Turtle Lady’s Story
Kebedech Seyoum
Chapter Seven
The Story of Woizero Bekelech and Signor Antonio
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine


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