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The Scent of Eucalyptus

The Scent of Eucalyptus

The fair-haired child of Canadian missionary parents, Daniel Coleman grew up with an ambivalent relationship to the country of his birth. He was clearly different from his Ethiopian playmates, but because he was born in Ethiopia and knew no other home, he was not completely foreign. Like the eucalyptus, a tree imported to Ethiopia from Australia in the late 19th century to solve a firewood shortage, he and his missionary family were naturalized transplants. As ferenjie, they endlessly negotiated between the culture they brought with them and the culture in which they lived.

In The Scent of Eucalyptus, Coleman reflects on his experience of "in-between-ness" amid Ethiopia's violent political upheavals. His intelligent and finely crafted memoir begins in the early 1960s, during the reign of Haile Selassie. It spans the king's dramatic fall from power in 1974, the devastating famines of the mid-1970s and early 1980s, and Mengistu Haile Mariam's brutal 20-year dictatorship.

Through memoir and reflection, The Scent of Eucalyptus gives a richly textured view of missionary culture that doesn't yield to black-and-white analysis.


After finishing high school in Ethiopia, Daniel Coleman earned university degrees at the University of Regina and the University of Alberta. He now holds the Canada Research Chair in Critical Ethnicity and Race Study in the English department of McMaster University. Daniel Coleman is a leading researcher in the depiction of immigrant men in Canadian literature. He has won the John Charles Polanyi Prize for his study of how literary texts produce and reinforce categories of cultural identification such as gender, ethnicity and nationality. His critically acclaimed book, Masculine Migrations: Reading the Postcolonial Male in "New Canadian" Narratives, published in 1998 by University of Toronto Press, is considered the foundational Canadian work in the field. While being a bahir-zaff throughout his childhood brought Daniel Coleman the pain of never fully belonging, it also gave him the immeasurable benefits and insights of an intercultural life. Several of his essays on his missionary childhood have appeared in magazines and journals. "The Babies in the Colonial Washtub," included in a revised form in The Scent of the Eucalyptus, won a Silver Medal in the National Magazine Awards. 

"Engaging and thought-provoking." — Globe and Mail

"An intelligent and nuanced look at the missionary experience, layered with sharp insight and poignant reflection ... frank commentary on cultural dynamics." — Edmonton Journal

"Daniel Coleman's vivid memoir of Ethiopia has relevance for today's NGOs ... Fascinating ... Coleman vividly relives emotions as well as sensations and reveals his own spiritual struggles." — FFWD

300 pages
Pub date: September 23, 2003