Dinaw Mengestu

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Dinaw Mengestu
Born30 June 1978
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
OccupationNovelist, Professor of Creative Writing
Alma materGeorgetown University; Columbia University
Literary movementRealism, postmodernism
Notable awardsMacArthur Fellow, 5 under 35 honoree

Dinaw Mengestu (born 30 June 1978) is an Ethiopian-American novelist and writer. In addition to three novels, he has written for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur, and for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda.[1] His writing has also appeared in Harper's, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. He is the Program Director of Written Arts at Bard College.[2] In 2007 the National Book Foundation named him a "5 under 35" honoree. Since his first book was published in 2007, he has received numerous literary awards, and was selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 2012.[3]

Early life[edit]

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His family left Ethiopia during the war when he was two years old and immigrated to the United States. He was raised in Peoria, Illinois, and graduated from Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois.[4]

Mengestu received his B.A. in English from Georgetown University, and his MFA in fiction from Columbia University.[5]


Mengestu's début novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, was published in the United States in March 2007 by Penguin Riverhead. It tells the story of Sepha Stephanos, who fled the warfare of the Ethiopian Revolution 17 years before and immigrated to the United States. He owns and runs a failing grocery store in Logan Circle, then a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C. that is becoming gentrified. He and two fellow African immigrants, all of them single, deal with feelings of isolation and nostalgia for home. Stephanos becomes involved with a white woman and her daughter, who move into a renovated house in the neighborhood.

The novel was published in the United Kingdom as Children of the Revolution in May 2007 by Jonathan Cape. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages.[6]

Mengestu's second novel, How to Read the Air, was published in October 2010.[7] Part of the novel was excerpted in the July 12, 2010, issue of The New Yorker, after Mengestu was selected as one of their "20 under 40" writers of 2010.[8] This novel was also the winner of the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. This literary award was established in 2007 by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.[9]

In 2014, he was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 project as one of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with the potential and the talent to define the trends of the region.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • The beautiful things that heaven bears. New York: Riverhead Books. 2007.[14]
  • "Big money". Granta (108): 135–149. Autumn 2009.
  • How to Read the Air, Penguin, 2010, ISBN 9781594487705
  • All Our Names (Knopf, 2014)


  1. ^ Dinaw Mengestu, "The Tragedy of Darfur", Rolling Stone, 21 September 2006.
  2. ^ "Acclaimed Writer to Teach Students at Georgetown". Georgetown University. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  3. ^ "2012 MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' Winners". AP. 1 October 2012. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  4. ^ Thomas, Mike (October 20, 2012). "Writer's long road to 'genius' is a story of overcoming racism". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Columbia University School of the Arts WRITING'", Columbia University.
  6. ^ "Dinaw Mengestu", Hodder & Stoughton.
  7. ^ "Two Riverhead Authors: Dinaw Mengestu and Salvatore Scibona Make the New Yorker's 20 under 40 Fiction Writers to Watch", Riverhead Books
  8. ^ "The New Yorker Excerpts Dinaw Mengestu's Forthcoming Novel 'How to Read the Air'", Riverhead Books
  9. ^ Hatley, James. "Making Gaines" Archived 2014-06-06 at the Wayback Machine., "225", Louisiana, 22 May 2012.
  10. ^ Africa39, Hay Festival.
  11. ^ Jennifer L. Knox, "20 under 40: Q. & A. | Dinaw Mengestu", The New Yorker, 14 & 21 June 2010.
  12. ^ "The Vilcek Foundation -". www.vilcek.org. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  13. ^ "Dinaw Mengestu Wins Ernest Gaines Literary Award", WRKF.org89.3, Louisiana, 25 January 2012.
  14. ^ Published in the UK as Children of the revolution (2008).

External links[edit]