Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Dinaw Mengestu  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1978 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Illinois Connection

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

Biographical and Professional Information

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.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
ISBN: 1594482853

Riverhead Books. 2008

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Watch a QuickTime interview with Dinaw Mengestu about this book.

Children of the Revolution
ISBN: 0099502739

Vintage Books USA. 2009

A haunting debut by gifted young Ethiopian-American author and Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2007

How to Read the Air
ISBN: 1594485399

Riverhead Books. 2011

A "beautifully written"* (New York Times Book Review) novel of redemption by a prize-winning international literary star.

From the acclaimed author of The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears comes a heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination.

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.

All Our Names
ISBN: 0345805666

Vintage. 2015

Named a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Daily Beast

A sweeping, continent-spanning story about the love between men and women, between friends, and between citizens and their countries, All Our Names is a transfixing exploration of the relationships that define us. Fleeing war-torn Uganda for the American Midwest, Isaac begins a passionate affair with the social worker assigned to him. But the couple’s bond is inescapably darkened by the secrets of Isaac’s past: the country and the conflict he left behind and the beloved friend who changed the course of his life—and sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom. From acclaimed author Dinaw Mengestu, here is a love story for our time.


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 Boston Globe
  • Best book of the Year, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Best book of the Year, The Daily Beast

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (No)