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Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  24 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 14th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Had I not attended an Iowa writers workshop last year, it’s unlikely I would have come across this book. But hearing the author speak, not only about his experiences as a Missionary Kid in Africa, but also his process and advice for memoir writing, I wanted to read his book.

"Chameleon Days" is one of two memoirs Bascom has written about his experiences in Africa—first as a young child and the second, "Running to the Fire," as he comes of age in Ethiopia during the Marxist “Red Terror.”

What I ap
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, ethiopia, memoir
Tim Bascom’s family moved to Ethiopia when he was three to serve as medical missionaries with Sudan Interior Mission. For the first three years, Tim remained at home with his parents, although his older brother was away at boarding school. When the family returned from their furlough, Tim joined his brother at boarding school with all the new fears and experiences of that situation. This recounts those experiences looking back as an adult but through the eyes of the child he was.
I liked this b
Todd Coburn
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian-people
This is a neat little book about a young boy growing up as a missionary kid in Ethiopia. It is an interesting read, and well written. Reading the book, I felt my pulse slow, and the day meander by, and felt a little of what the author must have felt as a boy in that situation. The book does a good job of taking the reader to that place.

Anyone wishing to experience the life of a missionary kid, or perhaps that of the child of a foreign relief worker, may enjoy this book.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethopia, africa
These are the memories of the middle child of a couple who served as missionaries in Ethiopia in the 1960's. Tim was 3 years old when he first arrived. The book covers his parents' tours of 5 years, making him 8 years old at the book's end.

It's hard to imagine such an observant 3 year old, but, this is a child living in a highly insecure environment. A perfect metaphor occurs at the start when Tim and his older brother arrive on Ethiopian soil and run. Miraculously they stop at the edge of a cli
This is a book about growing up in Ethiopia, but not really: far more than that it is about growing up in a missionary family in Ethiopia, which is a different beast altogether.

Very young when he moved there, the author lived in a mission house, went to an American-run boarding school, and had almost no interaction with native Ethiopians who were not connected to the mission or the school. I don’t fault Bascom for this — again, he was young — but it must have made for an upbringing both exotic a
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The son of medical missionaries, Tim Bascom and his three brothers moved to Ethiopia when he was only four. His six-year-old brother was immediately left at boarding school, miles away from his family, and didn't get to see them for months. Three years later, Tim joined him, and writes about being consumed with sobs at being so far from his family and in the midst of strangers. The school treated the children well and it was a huge improvement over local schools, yet Tim felt abandoned, and he d ...more
Jane Hoppe
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Full of descriptions of simple, imaginative childhood games and the universal desire to belong, Chameleon Days resonates with me on several levels. Although young Tim Bascom’s games took place mostly in Ethiopia—a country I’ve never visited—as I read Bascom’s memoir, I found myself repeating, “Oh, yes, now I remember, my brother and I played that game, too.” And the young author’s feelings of separation came because he attended boarding school far from where his missionary parents were stationed ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
The author was in Ethiopia just slightly before I was, but in a much different environment - while I was a military brat, Bascom was the son of medical missionaries. His family lived in the field while he attended boarding school in Addis Ababa; I lived with my family and attended school in Addis.

I think perhaps I was looking for something more evocative, or some time spent on what was actually happening in Ethiopia during the time he was there. I get it - we were there when the monarchy fell,
Mar 26, 2012 added it
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.
Pete Williamson
Apr 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
frankly, I had pretty high hopes for this autobiography of a child growing up in Haille Salassie's Ethiopia as the child of missionary parents, but I in the end I came away not really knowing much more about Ethiopia or what it was like to live there. I was hugely relieved that Bascom did not give us another Franky Schaeffer treatment of his growing up years.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. The memoir offers a reflection on the missionary experience as a child-in-tow. Without pretension or agenda, Mr Bascom maintains a child's innocence while deftly weaving reflection throughout.
Rachel N
Sep 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Chameleon Days provides a view of Ethiopia through the eyes of a western child (in the 1970s). It is a well written memoir touched with sadness, and a vulnerable account of the challenges field-missionaries face.
Chris Bartholomew
May 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Yes, it is an American Boyhood in Ethiopia. One in which this particular boy did very, very little interacting with anything or anyone Africa. I could have read as "Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Kansas".
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating account of a boyhood in Ethiopia. Timmy travels with his parents and 2 brothers to a missionary station in Ethiopia. Told with a strong voice from a child's point of view, I recommend this book.
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it
This one almost rated 4 stars. Hey, it did earn the the "Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize". It is the story of a young boy as his family serves as missionaries in Ethiopia.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Compelling coming-of-age metaphor set in Ethiopia. j
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Very interesting.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This was an interesting memoir. There were a lot of really intriguing moments, but I had a hard time connecting with any of the people in the book.
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ok. Interesting...but really should be titled something like "An American Missionary Childhood." Not really much about Ethiopia here.
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at Ethiopia as seen from a young boy's eyes while his parents were missionaries in the country during the 1960s.
May 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Corey by: Claudia Brown
Shelves: read-in-2006
This was my first contextual introduction to Ethiopia, where I moved in September 2006. In the year and a half I've lived here, I've come to appreciate and understand this book even more.
Saturday's Child
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
A well written and facinating account of a childhood spent in the wonderful country of Ethiopia. It really wet my appetite for travel to Ethiopia.
This was a well-written and interesting memoir set in Ethiopia. Looking at the unique cultures of the country, as it was set in two highly different villages as well as a bigger city, through the eyes of a white child, the son of a medical missionary, was intriguing. I'm glad that I found this book while trying to find a book to fit the keyword title challenge I'm doing because when I do read nonfiction, this is the sort I like to read, simple and flowing like a fictional story would.
Scott Milam
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not as much Ethiopia as I was hoping.
rated it it was ok
May 16, 2012
Kari Stern
rated it really liked it
Mar 29, 2014
Gail Owen
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Aug 08, 2020
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Jul 16, 2013
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Dec 02, 2015
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Mar 10, 2011
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