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Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in…

Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

by Tim Bascom

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In 1964, the Bascom family moved from Kansas to Ethiopia. Tom Bascom’s father was a doctor and a religious man, and so, felt a calling to help struggling folks in Africa with both medicine and faith. At the time, little Tommy was just three years old and had to adjust to a completely new set of circumstances. Bascom’s Chameleon Days is a grand look at the both the small scale details of living in Ethiopia as a American and the social and religious landscape of the country under Haile Selassie.

Everything here is filtered through both the experiences of Tom the young child and Tom the narrator. The years at the Soddo missionary camp and his experiences at the local boarding school leave Bascom at an interesting crossroads of personal reflection, world history, and social responsibility. There are noticeable collisions of faith all around him as folks refuse to go to the missionary hospital for fear of the Christians. The good thing about this book is that it isn’t all preachy, and Bascom’s writing is about as genuine as one would expect from someone who grew up in this environment.

Throughout the larger narrative, it’s the microscopic details that are the best—the changes in the chameleon he keep as a pet, the construction of a weaver bird’s nest, the smell of the red earth. This is where Bascom is at his best. I grew up in Europe as a military dependent and the experiences of a child who has to learn a new culture resonated well with me. A great many people can find a footing here, not just evangelicals or memoir enthusiasts. It’s a decent book, with a very interesting tale to tell. ( )
1 vote NielsenGW | Mar 26, 2014 |
Tim Bascomb is the son of American missionaries, and, as a result, spent much of his childhood in Ethiopia in the 1960's.

Like the children of many former missionaries, he had to adapt and make adjustments to Western culture on his return to the United States. Unlike many that I've read about, he seems to have done a good job of adapting.

I also really like that he seems to be particularly clear-sighted about religion and about his past experiences. His views, on the whole seem very balanced, IMO.

This was a very good memoir. ( )
1 vote bookwoman247 | Mar 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618658696, Paperback)

In 1964, at the age of three, Tim Bascom is thrust into a world of eucalyptus trees and stampeding baboons when his family moves from the Midwest to Ethiopia. The unflinchingly observant narrator of this memoir reveals his missionary parents’ struggles in a sometimes hostile country. Sent reluctantly to boarding school in the capital, young Tim finds that beyond the gates enclosing that peculiar, isolated world, conflict roils Ethiopian society. When secret riot drills at school are followed with an attack by rampaging students near his parents' mission station, Tim witnesses the disintegration of his family’s African idyll as Haile Selassie’s empire begins to crumble.

Like Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Chameleon Days chronicles social upheaval through the keen yet naive eyes of a child. Bascom offers readers a fascinating glimpse of missionary life, much as Barbara Kingsolver did in The Poisonwood Bible.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:47 -0400)

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