Illinois Authors

The Illinois Center for the Book banner

Dinaw Mengestu

Born: 1978 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Mengestu was raised in Peoria and Forest Park. He graduated from Fenwick High School in Oak Park.

Biography: Dinaw Mengestu is an award-winning author and has been called, 'one of the brightest young chroniclers of the African diaspora.' He was born in Ethiopia and immigrated with his family to the US at the age of two. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University's MFA program in fiction, Mengestu's articles have appeared in Harper's, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Granta among others. A recipient of the National Book Foundation's '5 Under 35' award and The New Yorker's '20 under 40' award Mengestu also received The Guardian's First Book Award. The Lannan Visiting Writer at Georgetown University for spring 2007 and a 2012 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Mengestu was the Lannan Foundation Chair in Poetics from 2012-2015. He currently resides in New York.

  • '''''The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears'''''
  • -- Starred Review, Publishers Weekly '''''All Our Names'''''
  • -- Best book of the Year, New York Times
  • -- Best book of the Year, The Washington Post
  • -- Best book of the Year, NPR
  • -- Best book of the Year, The Bosto

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers

Dinaw Mengestu on WorldCat :

Selected Titles

All our names /
ISBN: 0345805666 OCLC: 849198719

Alfred A. Knopf, New York : 2014.

An unforgettable love story about a searing affair between an American woman and an African man in 1970s America and an unflinching novel about the fragmentation of lives that straddle countries and histories. All Our Names is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart--one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom. Elegiac, blazing with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives, All Our Names is a marvel of vision and tonal command. Writing within the grand tradition of Naipul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, of self-determination and the names we are given and the names we earn.--Publisher's description.

Children of the revolution /
ISBN: 0099502739 OCLC: 212430988

Vintage, London : 2008.

In this deeply affecting and unforgettable novel, Dinaw Mengestu explores what it means to lose a family and a country - and what it takes to create a new home. Sepha is an Ethiopian refugee living in Washington D.C.

How to read the air
ISBN: 9781101444351 OCLC: 670107640

Riverhead Books, New York : 2010.

Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas, the son of Ethiopian immigrants, sets out to retrace his mother and father's trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents' youth to his life in the America of today.

  How to read the air /
ISBN: 1594485399 OCLC: 733731536

Riverhead Books, New York : 2011, ©2010.

"One September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants, set off on the road from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, in search of their new identity as an American couple. Thirty years later, their son, Jonas, desperate to make sense of the generational and cultural ties that have forged him, sets out to retrace his parents' trip. In a stunning display of imagination, Jonas weaves together a family history that takes him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents' youth to a brighter vision of his life in America today, a story -- real or invented -- that holds the possibility of redemption"--Page 4 of cover.

The beautiful things that heaven bears
ISBN: 9781594482854 OCLC: 70831026

It's the '70s, and one impoverished, African-American Washington, D.C. neighborhood is undergoing big changes. In the mix is Ethiopian grocery owner Sepha Stephanos--a man with a complex past who fled his homeland after seeing his father brutalized and beaten to death in the Ethiopian Revolution, 17 years earlier. Eventually, he begins to assemble a group of people who resemble a community, but once again his family is threatened, this time by a series of racially charged incidents.