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Dinaw Mengestu Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Children of the Revolution aka The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
How to Read the Air (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
All Our Names (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American author. Besides writing, he has also written for Jane Magazine on the war in Uganda and Rolling Stone about the conflict in Darfur. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Harpers and several other publications. Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but his family relocated to the United States after civil war outbreak when he was only two years. He spent his childhood in Peoria, Illinois and attended Fenwick High School in Illinois. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Georgetown University and later his Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University.

Mengestu first book, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was published in the US in 200 by Penguin Riverhead. The novel narrates the story of Sepha Stephanos, a young man who escaped the war in Ethiopia and fled to the United States. The book was later published in the United Kingdom under a different title, Children of the Revolution in May 2007 and has since then been translated into over a dozen languages. The author’s second book, How to Read the Air was published in 2010. Part of this second book was excerpted in July 2010 issue of The New Yorker after Mengestu was shortlisted as one of their twenty under 40 writers of 2010. The novel was also the winner of Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence in 2011. In 2014, Mengestu was selected for the Hay Festival Africa39 projects of one of the best 39 Sub-Saharan African Writers with the talent and potential to vividly define the potential in the region.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (Mary Goretti)

This is a haunting and robust first book in which the readers get a glimpse of the streets of war-torn Addis Ababa and Washington, D.C. through the eyes of Sepha’s. Sepha is a young man who three years ago fled his home country Ethiopia during the Ethiopian revolution and now is the owner of a failing store in an African-American shanty neighborhood in Washington. The book was first issued as The Beautiful ……Heaven Bears in the United States, Australia, and Canada and under the title Children of the Revolution in the United Kingdom.

Seventeen years ago, Sepha fled Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing the government soldiers mercilessly beat his father to the point of death. He sold his parents jewelry to pay for his passage to the United States. Now a resident of the United States, he finds himself in charge of a grocery store in a poor neighborhood in Washington. His faithful companions are two African immigrants with whom he shares his bitter homesickness for their home continent, Africa. He discovers that his life had turned out far much different from the one that he had imagined for himself many years ago.

Soon there seems to be light at the end of Sepha’s life. His neighborhood begins a transformation, and some new hope comes in the form of new neighbors-Judith a white woman and Naomi, her biracial daughter-who become Sepha’s friends and remind him of how it feels like to have a family for the first time in nearly a decade. However, when the peaceful neighborhood starts experiencing disturbing racial incidences, it becomes clear to Sepha that he may lose everything he holds dearly all over again.

Children of the Revolution is narrated in a compelling and haunting first-person narration that gives the readers a glimpse of the streets of Addis Ababa and Washington, D.C. through the eyes of Sepha. This is an unforgettable, deeply affecting debut novel that showcases what it is like to lose family and above all a country. Through Sepha’s struggles in a new world, the author gives the readers an insight of how it is was like adapting into an utterly modern world that was characterized by racial discrimination and segregation.

How to Read the Air

This is another heartbreaking and intriguing literary masterpiece about family, love and brilliant imagination that confirms Mengestu reputation as one of the rising talents of his generation. Mengestu’s first novel, Children of the Revolution, earned the him comparisons to Naipaul, Bellow, and Fitzgerald and garnered positive critical praises and awards across the world for its haunting and vivid depiction of the immigration experience.

How to Read the Air is an enrichment of the themes that defined Mengestu’s first novel with a masterwork about family and love. One early September afternoon, Mariam and Yosef, young Ethiopian immigrant couple set off on a road trip to their new home in Nashville, Tennessee from Peoria, Illinois in search of a new identity as American couple and soon their firstborn son, Jonas will be born in Illinois.

Three decades later, Yosef dies, and Jonas has to make sense of the volatile cultural and generational ties that have forged him. How could he live with his future without knowing about his past? Leaving his marriage and well-paying job in New York, Jonas sets out to trace his fathers and mothers roots and retraces a family history that will see him travel to the war-torn Ethiopia, a country where his parents spent their youth life to his life in the America we know today. This is a journey that will see Jonas through reconciliation and redemption.

Jonas is the primary focus of this story. He is a man who learned from his parents two very crucial lessons. First, telling a lie and making it your truth and secondly playing a happy family to those outside where his father regularly abused his mother. Jonas while working at a refugee resettlement center in Manhattan meets Angela, a woman who would later become his wife. She is a young African-American lady who craves for security, stability and the great American dream. The story of Angela and Jonas is mixed with that of Jona’s parents.

Mengestu clearly shows out in detail from his character’s perspective the challenges that immigrants face. Jonas past was dark, depressing and a lonely one- some of the themes that the author addresses in the story include, domestic violence, discrimination and the challenges that second-generation immigration experience. Mengestu characterization is brilliantly done, and the story flows at a steady pace from the first to the last page.

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