National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

by Dinaw Mengestu

The stories he invented himself he told with particular delight. They all began in the same way, with the same lighthearted tone, with a small wave of the hand, as if the world were being brushed to the sideā€¦


Dinaw Mengestu. Copyright Matthieu Zazzo.

Willing Davidson: One of the things that distinguishes Dinaw again is this way he has of nesting a sort of important story in a very daily, observational, almost conversational prose. And I think you see this very well with Stephanos' friends, Kenneth, who's from Kenya, and Joseph, who's from the Congo. And the three of them often get together in the evening, and they rib each other. They make fun of each other. They refer to their pasts. They share anecdotes. And one of the great things they do, which exemplifies this mix of the conversational and the historical, is they play a game where one of them names a deposed leader of Africa or someone who led a coup in Africa, and the other two have to guess where it was and when it was. And you can really see these men, who come from very different cultures and societies, but have been thrust together in DC by virtue of the fact that they are all African, and in lieu of a greater specific—country-specific—culture, they throw themselves together as Africans. And the way that this is expressed is sort of trading historical details or really just trivia. It's as if these guys are at a bar on trivia night trading little tidbits.

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