Dinaw Mengestu, The African Millennium Award winning author of two novels, The beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air.
A Graduate from Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA Program in Fiction and the recipient of a 5 under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation and a 20 Under 40 Award from The New Yorker. His journalism and fiction have appeared in such publications as Harper’s, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker Times and Wall Street Journal.
The recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. Dinaw currently lives in New York City.
1. To what do you attribute your journey as a writer and what moved your spirit to pursue writing so dedicatedly?
I began writing because it was the only way that I could tell the story about my family being born in Africa and raised in the USA.
2. You will have your name engraved as a brilliant novelist throughout history now that we are no longer dependant on papyrus and human memory alone. Did the notion of success ever cross your mind as you honed your craft? Had you ever imagined the size of your success?
No I did not imagine the course of my success at first you struggle and do the best that you can you never know what awaits you and the success is always a pleasure and an honour but its not something you can plan.
3 What makes you an African writer?
I choose and think of myself as an African, although I was raised in America. It’s important to acknowledge all parts of your heritage in the story.
4. What guided and inspired you to bring to life the reality and anguish of immigrants in this millenium, that universal story you laid out for us in your most recent novel, All Our Names?
As a journalist I travelled across Africa and experienced life there so wanted to tell the story as best I could and therefore turned to the fictional side of the story.
5. What do you fear most?
I fear losing my family the most.
6. Do you have any regrets at this moment of your life?
No I don’t have any regrets. Of course I always wish that I could’ve done better but then again you need to make mistakes so that you can learn from them.
7. Do you have any advise for our youth?
The most important thing for our youth to remember is that they have to carve out their lives no matter if they live in Africa or the USA. It’s hard work and relies on dedication to endure the challenges that life presents.
8. Do you think we have made progress as a nation?
Yes we have made progress both as Africans abroad and those who remain in Africa. After Colonialism, we have emerged as a nation from those years and I feel optimistic about the future of Africa. Every country faces challenges and hard choices – lots of people are doing great things and every time when I go back to Africa I see that they are making strides to be better.
9. In your novel ALL OUR NAMES what is the heart of the story?
It is a love story — people have to love in order to reach their full potential.
Dinaw Mengestu demonstrates knowledge is power, brilliantly and ecstatically. He brought the real story and reality of immigrant life in the 21st century. He managed to truly represent us all in this classic, rough, yet undeniable Novel “All Our Names” TAN -The Afro News
Honore Gbedze Publisher/Editor
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. Novelist Dinaw Mengestu