The Next Chapter·Dog-Eared Reads

How Michael Ondaatje's memoir inspired Bethlehem Gebreyohannes to write about her own life

Bethlehem Gebreyohannes talks about her favourite read and why it encouraged her to explore her own story.
Author Bethlehem Gebreyohannes talks about her favourite read, Michael Ondaatje’s “Running in the Family”. (Canadian Press/Knopf Canada)

Bethlehem Terrefe Gebreyohannes loves Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family. For the Fire Walkers author, it's the one book that never gets old.

Ondaatje openly talked about such private family matters: their carefree lives, his parents' troubled marriage, his father's alcoholism. That, for me, was a taboo. We didn't talk about private family matters like that. It felt like I was peeking into other people's lives when I wasn't supposed to. I couldn't believe he could openly talk about it and get away with it.

His sentence structure — the words are so beautifully put together. It was full of humour. After every sentence you burst out laughing. That subconsciously opened me up to writing and to exploring my own personal and private life.

Bethlehem Gebreyohannes comments have been edited and condensed.