DOWN ON BOTH SIDES by Caroline Kurtz


Growing Up in Ethiopia and America
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A Presbyterian missionary’s daughter tells the story of the life-changing years she spent growing up in Ethiopia.

In the mid-1950s, Kurtz’s father took his family to live in East Africa. They eventually landed in Maji, a small, remote Ethiopian village that became the author’s “Camelot” of peace and stability. There, the author grew up in a cheerfully chaotic household with three sisters. She passed her days learning Amharic and being home-schooled by a mother who led Bible study classes for local women. Her adventure-loving father sometimes took the family on mule or Jeep treks deep into the Ethiopian outback, which Kurtz came to love for its untamed beauty. In 1960, her parents sent her to a Christian boarding school in Addis Ababa that became the vantage point from which she witnessed the attempted coup against Emperor Haile Selassie. Her teenage years marked the beginning of a more peripatetic life. She began high school in Alexandria, Egypt, then returned briefly to the U.S., where her father went to earn a master’s degree in Pasadena. There, her father resigned his post in Maji out of despair for not being able to “grow the church,” but he was reassigned to Addis Ababa, where Kurtz finished high school. She returned again to the U.S. for college and discovered that her years in Africa had made her a permanent outsider. She married a fellow student from her years in Addis Ababa, and together, they “wandered in [an] American wilderness” until the early 1990s. Eventually, both decided to return to Ethiopia only to find their adopted homeland embroiled in a civil war that would see it “[ricochet] from feudalism into communism.” Though the narrative sometimes reads unevenly, with sections that are either over- or underdeveloped or not integrated into a smooth arc, the book still offers a unique, historically informed perspective on a fascinating nation.

A flawed but warmly remembered memoir.

Pub Date: July 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-946395-15-3
Page count: 302pp
Publisher: Catalyst Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2019


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