African Writers Symposium Review: Dinaw Mengestu

            On November 1st at the Department of English Creative Writing Fund’s African Writer’s Symposium Dinaw Mengestu read an excerpt from his acclaimed novel The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears.  After reading sections there was a brief interview with Professor Paula Morris, in which they discussed the genesis of the book, Mengestu’s previous non-fiction work, the role of space in the novel, the reason it was set in Washington D.C., and David Eggers.   Following a theme of the day, the issue of getting an ‘African’ book published was raised. Mengestu said he was lucky to find a publisher who would support the novel from the start.

            After the interview a brief question and answer period was held. Questions included, what was the inspiration for “the little girl.” “She was pulled into the store and stuck around; she is the child….between African and American Identity.”  And, why are there two titles for the book?  “Children of the Revolution was to aggressive for Americans, to communist. The second title is from Dante and it was very easy to settle on after a search.”  

             Dinaw Mengestu currently resides in Paris, France and he is teaching classes at Tulane University as the author in residence during the 2008 fall semester.

 Zachary Leibman

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