Honey from the Lion: An African Journey

Written by Wendy Laura Belcher
New York: E. P Dutton Press.
1988, 2015. 188 pages. Print ISBN: 0-525-24596-0. E-book ISBN: 978-0-692-52049-9

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The first edition of this book, published in 1988, appears only in hardcover. The revised edition of this book, published in 2015, with a new preface and epilogue, appears only as an ebook.

This book was a Winner of Washington State Governor’s Writers Award and a finalist in the Martha Albrand/PEN Society Award for first book of nonfiction (judged by Annie Dillard and Allen Ginsburg).


It was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review; Library Journal; Booklist Review; Publishers Weekly; Kirkus Reviews, The Seattle Times; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and so on. It was translated into French by l’Ecole des Loisirs as Le Miel du Lion

Jacket flap on the 1988 edition:

The publication of this account of a young woman’s return journey to her childhood home of Ghana, West Africa, in 1982-1983, marks the debut of a writer whose passionate interest in the issues that divide the first and third worlds is reflected in her unusual ability to explore the nuances of cultural difference. With Mary, a lifelong missionary, as her travelling companion, she becomes immersed in the life of a small Ghanaian village. Through her eyes, we begin to understand how crises of sexuality and sanity, love and violence, tradition and change, are suffered and ultimately transcended by this African people. This is the story of a young woman’s search for her own identity, but also of an even greater crisis of understanding: the struggle of Africans with the Western culture that, increasingly, defines and dominates their own. 

“Honey from the Lion is an important book–authentic and finely observed. We need to know as much about Africa as we can, beyond the clipped spectaculars of news reports. Belcher has a real stake in Africa; it goes as deep as identity. She shows, in the beauty and sadness, in all the contradictions that accumulate around the plight of the whole continent, reflections of our own trouble, and the awakening of consciousness.” Maria Thomas, author of Antonia Saw the Oryx First 

“A revealing, often poignant view of self and foreign ‘other’; a modern woman and an ancient culture in transition, hovering between what was and what might be–under God and the searing West African sun.” Herbert M. Cole 


“Brought up in Africa, a young American woman comes back for nine months in 1982-83 as a writer-photographer in the interior of Ghana, and in this attractively written book recounts her experiences working for a “national linguistic group” … The sweetness of life and strength of death are among the many memorable images associated with Belcher’s coming-of-age.” Genevieve Stuttaford, Publishers Weekly 233 (February 26, 1988): 185-187. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“Evidence of Ms. Belcher’s lyric strength. . . . The wealth the author has drawn from this nine-month journey is manifest.” Denis Hirson, New York Times Book Review 93 (September 11, 1988): 41
“A respectful cultural overview as well as a fascinating voyage of human growth and self-discovery.” Booklist Review (April 15, 1988): 1388
“Lyrical insight gained in sentimental journey.” The Seattle Times (April 10, 1988).
“A highly personal, readable account.” Janet Stanley, Library Journal 113 (April 1, 1988): 84
“Poignant descriptions of the social and cultural barriers that continuously stand in the way of … her own integration into African society eloquently illustrate the dilemma of many liberal whites … Belcher’s lyrical and imaginative writing is at its best when she is describing daily scenes of African life.” Kirkus Reviews 56 (February 1, 1988).