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World Literature: Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia/USA) “Someone Like Us”

August 26 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

Gifted novelist Dinaw Mengestu discusses his breathtaking latest novel with Anderson Tepper.

In Dinaw Mengestu’s Someone Like Us, the son of Ethiopian immigrants seeks to understand a hidden family history and uncovers a past colored by unexpected loss, addiction, and the enduring emotional pull toward home. City of Asylum’s Curator for World Literature, Anderson Tepper, joins Dinaw To discuss this intricate and compelling work.

Dinaw Mengestu’s novels—The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, How to Read the Air, and All Our Names—amount to a powerful cycle on Ethiopian immigrants and exiles adrift in America. His new work, Someone Like Us, explores the next generation and its own feelings of loss and dislocation. The book’s narrator is haunted by the past, especially his ties to an enigmatic father figure named Samuel. Mengestu probes Samuel’s half-known life, and sudden death, with the power of a pulse-quickening mystery in which we’re all implicated.” —Anderson Tepper

The novel follows Mamush, who, after abandoning his once-promising career as a journalist, meets Hannah—a photographer whose way of seeing the world shows him the possibility of finding not only love but family. Five years later, with his marriage to Hannah on the verge of collapse, he returns to the close-knit immigrant Ethiopian community of Washington, DC that defined his childhood. At its center is Mamush’s stoic, implacable mother and Samuel whose ceaseless charm and humor have always served as a cover for a harder, more troubling truth. But on the same day that Mamush arrives home in Washington, Samuel is found dead in his garage.

Soon Mamush sets out on an unexpected journey across America in search of answers. As he does so, he begins to understand that the only chance he has of saving his family and making it back home is to confront not only the mystery around Samuel’s life and death, but his own troubled memories and the years spent masking them. 

Purchase your own copy of Dinaw’s book, Someone Like Us, at City of Asylum Bookstore and have it signed in person.

About the Author:

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of three novels, all of which were named New York Times Notable Books: All Our Names, How to Read the Air, and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. A native of Ethiopia who came with his family to the United States at the age of two, Mengestu is also a freelance journalist who has reported about life in Darfur, northern Uganda, and eastern Congo. His articles and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, Jane, and Rolling Stone. He is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Prize, Guardian First Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, among other honors. He was also included in The New Yorker’s 20 under 40 list in 2010.

About the Moderator:

Anderson Tepper is City of Asylum’s Curator of World Literature. He has been a guest curator of PEN America’s World Voices Festival and is a longstanding member of the international committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival. He writes on books and authors for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and World Literature Today. Anderson also serves on the City of Asylum Advisory Board.

About Your Visit: 

The in-house restaurant 40 North is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but a cash wine bar will be available.

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August 26
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
Program Category:


Alphabet City
40 W. North Avenue
Pittsburgh,PA15212United States

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