In Chameleon Days Tim Bascom recalls his childhood in Ethiopia. After moving at age to the African country with his parents and older brother in 1964, he spent most of the next five years in remote hospital missions or at Bingham Academy, a boarding school in Addis Ababa. When free to do so, he spent much of his time climbing trees, watching birds and reptiles, and playing with his toy Land Rover. His greatest longing was to go on adventures with his father and brother in the real Land Rover, which had a tendency to break down at inconvenient times. Life in Ethiopia was not, however, idyllic. Haile Selassie was still Emperor, and students at the university in Addis Ababa began protesting against poverty and political repression. Resentment of Americans and Europeans was growing and life for the Bascom family was becoming dangerous.
Bascom's memoirs respects the mission of his parents but is honest in the assessment of its toll on the family and its impact on the rural people they served. Reflecting on the time, he sees now how he never made any Ethiopian friends and how his missionary parents' attempt to be apolitical was doomed. Now an adult, Bascom's views have changed dramatically, but he is still doing mission work and has been back in Ethiopia.
Chameleon Days has won a very interestingly named prize: the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize. Readers who like childhood memoirs set in exotic locations will enjoy this book.
Bascom, Tim. Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. ISBN 0618658696