Dinaw Mengestu biography, plus links to book reviews and book excerpts from books by Dinaw Mengestu.

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Dinaw Mengestu
Blair Fethers

Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu: dih-now men-guess-too

Dinaw Mengestu Biography

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980 he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, joining his father, who had fled the communist revolution in Ethiopia two years before.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University's MFA program in fiction. He is the recipient of a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He has also reported stories for Harper's and Jane magazine, profiling a young woman who was kidnapped and forced to become a soldier in the brutal war in Uganda, and for Rolling Stone on the tragedy in Darfur.

His first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007), was named a New York Times Notable Book and awarded the Guardian First Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, among numerous other honors.

He was the Lannan Visiting Writer at Georgetown University for spring 2007 and received a "5 under 35" Award from the National Book Foundation.

His second book, How to Read the Air, was published in 2010.

After spending a number of years in New York, he now lives with his wife and son in Paris.

This biography was last updated on 08/21/2010.

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Interview

Dinaw Mengestu discusses many aspects of his first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

How much of your own story and your family’s story is in this novel? How did you learn about your family’s experience?

The novel is definitely a blend of fact and fiction. The parts of the narrative that are true were told to me over the course of many years, sometimes by accident, sometimes deliberately. As is often the case with fiction, a certain factual detail becomes the starting point from which the rest of the narrative takes off. My uncle, for example, was a lawyer in Addis, and he was arrested and died during the government’s Red Terror campaign. The details of his death, however, are entirely unknown to me or anyone else in my family. Similarly, another uncle who was a teenager at the time did flee Ethiopia for Sudan during the Revolution, and while we’ve discussed his journey, it’s always in relatively vague and general terms, and that’s partly where the fiction element comes. It allows you to create the details that can bring a story to life.


Why do you think that the lives of African immigrants in the United States have been so little explored in fiction ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Dinaw Mengestu at BookBrowse

Recommended in Detail at BookBrowse

How to Read the Air
How to Read the Air

by Dinaw Mengestu

A heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination, which confirms Mengestu's reputation as one of the brightest talents of his generation.
Read More

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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Dinaw Mengestu but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

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    Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964. She attended Queen's College, Lagos, and Millfield School in England. In 1985, she graduated from Birmingham University and trained as a chartered accountant. She moved from ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    How to Read the Air

    Try:
    A Bit of Difference
    by Sefi Atta

  • Bebe Moore Campbell

    Bebe Moore Campbell

    Bebe Moore Campbell was a bestselling author and a journalist. Her nonfiction work appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Ms., Essence, Black Enterprise, Ebony, Working Mother, USA Weekend, ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

    Try:
    What You Owe Me
    by Bebe Moore Campbell

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