Aida Edemariam, THE WIFE’S TALE & Russell Powell, APPLES OF NEW ENGLAND

We talk with Aida Edemariam about her memoir, The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History. It’s about her Ethiopian grandmother who, over nearly a century of living, experienced the transformation of Ethiopian society and her place in it.

Then we celebrate apple season with Russell Powell, talking about his book, Apples of New England: A User’s Guide.Aida Edemariam

What is it like to live through nearly a century of transformation from a medieval feudal society to one that is fully part of the modern world? And to do it from the point of view of a woman in a society where women are second-class citizens?

That’s the story that unfolds in lyric and fascinating detail from the pen of Aida Edemariam in The Wife’s Tale.

It’s the story of her grandmother Yetemegnu, born into a socially prominent family in Ethiopia around 1916, married at eight and mother at fifteen. The social convulsions of Ethiopian society led to her husband’s imprisonment and death. She also experienced the deaths of several of her children and the imprisonment of another.

How she confronted these challenges changed Yetemegnu profoundly, echoing the changes of the world around her. She was a woman of great sorrow but also great joy, beset by fears yet indomitable. She excelled in the domestic wifely arts but also became a businesswoman. And she was a great storyteller.

The New York Times called The Wife’s Tale “a sublimely crafted tribute” to the author’s grandmother. But it is much more — a vivid portrayal of Ethiopian society, customs, food and history through a century of turmoil and change. The book is a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards of Canada.

Aida Edemariam is of dual Ethiopian and Canadian heritage. she is currently a senior feature writer and editor for the Guardian in the UK.  

Read an excerpt from The Wife’s Tale

 Russell Powell (encore interview)

Before there were the apples of Washington State, there were the apples of New England. Johnny Appleseed himself came from Leominster, Massachusetts and before him — in fact, almost as soon as the Puritans had touched ground at Plymouth Rock — apple trees were brought to the region from England.

Russell Steven Powell is the perfect person to the write the story of the New England apple. A writer, visual artist and a magazine publisher, he has devoted his talents to bringing the unique sense of place of the New England landscape to a larger audience. He was the publisher and editor of New England Watershed, a journal of culture, art and ideas.

Powell was the executive director of the New England Apple Association from 1998 to 2011 and has written two books on apples: America’s Apple and his newest, a regional history and guidebook, Apples of New England: A User’s Guide (The Countryman Press, 2014.)

(Note: this interview originally aired on Writer’s Voice in May of 2015.)

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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.