It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Martha Paradis, author of Flowers & Locusts: My Childhood in Ethiopia.
About Martha Paradis:
Martha Paradis lived with her family in Ethiopia from 1957 to 1968 (which was her childhood from ages 2 to almost 14). Her father served as official legal advisor to Emperor Haile Selassie through the Prime Minister’s office.
In her memoir Flowers & Locusts: My Childhood in Ethiopia she recounts the adventures, family relationships, and sometimes tragic events of her young life and her deep love for the Ethiopian people and culture. After her family left Ethiopia Ms. Paradis moved to London, England where she attended high school during the tumultuous late 1960s and early 1970s. She returned to the United States in 1973 to pursue her university and graduate studies. She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 1986, and in 2011 completed the Somatic Experiencing training.
For the past 30 years, she has been a psychotherapist with a specialty in treating post-traumatic stress and the impact of traumatic events ranging from accidents to political violence.
She is married to a psychologist, has two grown children, and lives and works in New Jersey. She maintains her lifelong interest in world cultures and still considers Ethiopia the home of heart
About Flowers & Locusts:
“Imperial Ethiopia through the innocent eyes of a young American girl, who came as a privileged foreigner and left with an Ethiopian heart.” – Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, author of King of Kings: Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie
The haunting memoir Flowers & Locusts opens a window on the legendary kingdom of Ethiopia through the extraordinary childhood of an American girl. The author’s father brought his family there from New York City to become official advisor to Emperor Haile Selassie. The arc of the story is set against the unrest that leads to the downfall of the king.
The memoir is also a meditation on the joys and pains of childhood, as the girl finds solace in her passion for horses and shares adventures with a beloved younger brother. In a remote and mysterious realm of beautiful wild flowers sprung up after heavy rains and of cycles of locusts that devastate the countryside, the girl learns lessons about living from her larger-than-life father, gracious southern mother, and rebellious older sister. Interwoven is the wisdom of the family’s Ethiopian caregivers and a gentle boy who opens up the girl’s eyes to both the splendors and poverty of the royal capital city outside the family compound.
As a coming of age story, Flowers & Locusts will appeal to readers from young teens to adults. Ultimately, the book is a work of gratitude to the author’s family and the Ethiopian people. On leaving this magical country, the author feels the profound loss of the only home she’s ever known.
“The author’s rich narrative illuminates a unique culture and the wrenching impact of events she could barely fathom.” – Vincent DeFilippi, MD, FACS, Stanford University Medical Center
“This poignant memoir brought me closer to my childhood. I wish I had read it during my own adolescence.” – Melissa Mertz, Psychotherapist & Trauma Specialist
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Author Interview with Martha Paradis:
- What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene for me to write was at the end of the memoir when my family left Ethiopia. During the drafting, my throat was tight, and tears streamed down my face as I relived saying good-bye to people I had come to love and the only home I had ever known.
- How do you come up with the title of your book?
The title of my memoir represents two contrasting experiences of Ethiopia. The “Flowers” in the title evokes the stunning beauty of the Ethiopian landscape. The “Locusts”, by contrast, points towards the very real destruction visited on Ethiopia by these insects as well as metaphorically the horror of the time known as the “Red Terror” following the military takeover of the country.
- Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
The memoir has a Facebook page, Flowers & Locusts: My Childhood in Ethiopia where I love interacting with readers from around the US and the world.
- What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?
What surprised me the most was the degree to which the voice of the young girl seemed to resonate with readers of different backgrounds, genders, ages, and professions.
- What book is currently on your bedside table?
The book currently on my bedside table is Sing For Your Life: A Story Of Race, Music, And Family by Daniel Bergner.
- Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any you’d recommend?
I love listening to audiobooks while driving or walking. I’d highly recommend Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Book Of Longings by Sue Monk Kid.