A pervading sense of low-level despair, so long
present that it has become his accepted state, pervades the
voice of Sepha Stephanos, the narrator of Mengestu's first
novel. For most of the 17-years Sepha has been in the USA he has
run a convenience store in the Logan Circle area of Washington
DC, at first with enthusiasm that this would be his first step
towards achieving the immigrant dream, but in recent years with
an increasing sense of despondency and hopelessness.
In the early 90s a degree of hope enters his life when the run-down building next to his rented rooms is bought by a white woman who quickly renovates it to its former glory, in the process rubbing salt in the wounds of the long time residents of the neighborhood who bitterly resent the gentrification process that is causing many to be ...
Dinaw Mengestu (pronounced dih-now men-guess-too) 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, and is the
recipient of a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York
Foundation for the Arts. The Beautiful Things that Heaven
Bears is his first novel. 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.
In high school, Mengestu started trying to figure out who he was. "I wanted an identity so badly," ...
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