Author: Dinaw Mengestu
All Our Names
In Uganda, two young men get caught up in a revolt against the post-colonial regime in the early 1970s. As the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart – one of them into the deepest peril. In a quiet town in the America Midwest, an exotic stranger arrives: an exchange student from Africa called Isaac. Helen, the social worker asked to help him settle in, quickly falls for him, though she soon learns to keep their affair hidden from prejudiced eyes. And she soon realises that Isaac is haunted by his mysterious past. Switching back and forth between Africa and America, this taut, searing novel blazes with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives. Writing within the tradition of Naipaul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, self-determination, and the names we are given and the names we earn.
Children of the Revolution
Sepha Stephanos owns a newsagent and general store in a rundown Washington, D.C. neighbourhood that is on the verge of gentrification. Seventeen years ago he fled the Ethiopian revolution after his father was killed. His life now is quiet, he spends his days reading Russian classics, serving the few customers he has and every Thursday evening he meets with his two friends, Joseph and Kenneth, drinking whisky and making jokes about Africa’s long line of dictators and revolutions. When a white woman named Judith moves next door with her mixed-race daughter Naomi, Sepha’s life seems on the verge of change. His fragile relationship with them gives him a painful glimpse into the life he could have lived and for which he still holds out hope. In an astonishingly assured debut, Dinaw Mengestu writes with powerful understatement of one man’s longing for the American dream, and of the tenacious grip of the past across continents and time.
How to Read the Air
Following the death of his father Yosef, Jonas Woldemariam feels compelled to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, he sets out to retrace his mother and father’s honeymoon as young Ethiopian immigrants and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn country of his parents’ youth to a brighter vision of his life in America today. In so doing, he crafts a story- real or invented-that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.