Beyond the Book: Background information when reading How to Read the Air

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How to Read the Air

by Dinaw Mengestu

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2010, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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About the Author
Dinaw MengestuDinaw 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 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) brought him admiration and recognition: a glowing review in The New York Times, a Guardian First Book Award as well as inclusion in The National Book Foundation’s "5 under 35" list. The novel follows a character who, after his father is killed, makes his way to Washington, D.C. Mengestu drew on family history to imagine the past of his main character.

In this video, Dinaw speaks about the underlying ideas in How to Read the Air, the influence of violence on subsequent generations, and what he attempts to do in his fiction.



Other Ethiopian Authors
Maaza MengisteMaaza Mengiste's first novel, Beneath the Lion's Gaze (2010), opens in 1974 during the last days of Emperor Haile Selassie's six-decade rule. It is an epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia's revolution.

Abraham VergheseAbraham Verghese's Cutting For Stone (one of BookBrowse's top 3 books of 2009) also explores the the Ethiopian revolution, and the experience of an immigrant building a new life for himself in the USA. Verghese was born in Ethiopia of Southern Indian, Christian, parents who had emigrated to Ethiopia. He attended medical school in Ethiopia, but was forced to leave  in 1973 due to the unstable political situation. 

Interesting Links:
A short history of Ethiopia, in the sidebar to There is No Me Without You
A short history of the Ethiopian revolution in the sidebar to Beneath the Lion's Gaze

Article by Judy Krueger

This article is from the October 20, 2010 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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