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Arts & Culture
There are one million new books published each year. With so many books and so little time, where do you begin to find your next must-read? There’s the New York Times Bestseller list, the Goodreads app, the Cape Library’s Staff picks shelf and now Martin’s Must-Reads.Every Wednesday at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m., and Sunday at 8:18 a.m., Betty Martin recommends a must read based on her own personal biases for historical fiction, quirky characters and overall well-turned phrases. Her list includes WWII novels, biographies of trailblazers, novels with truly unique individuals and lots more. Reading close to 100 titles a year, Betty has plenty of titles to share.Local support for "Martin's Must Reads" comes from the Cape Girardeau Public Library and the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library.

Martin's Must Reads: 'The Shadow King'

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“She has watched while a parade of young women, raising fists and rifles, marched past the bus taking her to Bahir Dar. They stared at her an aging woman in her long drab dress, as if they did not know those who came before them. As if this were the first time a woman carried a gun.”

I’m Betty Martin and those words are from the Prologue to Maaza Mengiste’s historical novel The Shadow King. The “she” refers to Hirut and the first time a woman carried a gun refers to when Hirut as a servant and her mistress, Aster, take up weapons to protect their homeland Ethiopia from Mussolini’s Italian invasion in 1935.

The Italian troops arrive in Ethiopia to claim the land for their own and kill thousands of Ethiopians by gunfire, poisonous gas and by pushing them off a cliff. Without a sufficient supply of guns, the Ethiopians are doomed and many give up including the Emperor Haile Selassie who escapes with his family to Bath, England.

Aster, the soldier commander’s wife, vows to fight along side her husband and recruits women to make more bullets from empty shell casings. Just as defeat seems imminent, Hirut notices that one of the soldiers has a striking resemblance to the emperor and they dress him up and parade him in front of the Ethiopians to give them the courage to fight on. This shadow king is guarded by two women, Hirut and Aster, dressed as soldiers.

If you’re looking for a rich, lyrically written story about strong women, then you must read The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste.

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