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The beautiful things that heaven bears
Mengestu, Dinaw
Adult Fiction MENGEST

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Barely suppressed despair and black wit infuse this beautifully observed debut from Ethiopian ?migr? Mengestu. Set over eight months in a gentrifying Washington, D.C., neighborhood in the 1970s, it captures an uptick in Ethiopian grocery store owner Sepha Stephanos's long-deferred hopes, as Judith, a white academic, fixes up the four-story house next to his apartment building, treats him to dinner and lets him steal a kiss. Just as unexpected is Sepha's friendship with Judith's biracial 11-year-old daughter, Naomi (one of the book's most vivid characters), over a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Mengestu adds chiaroscuro with the story of Stephanos's 17-year exile from his family and country following his father's murder by revolutionary soldiers. After long days in the dusty, barely profitable shop, Sepha's two friends, Joseph from Congo and Kenneth from Kenya, joke with Sepha about African dictators and gently mock his romantic aspirations, while the neighborhood's loaded racial politics hang over Sepha and Judith's burgeoning relationship like a sword of Damocles. The novel's dirge-like tone may put off readers looking for the next Kite Runner, but Mengestu's assured prose and haunting set pieces (especially a series of letters from Stephanos's uncle to Jimmy Carter, pleading that he respect "the deep friendship between our two countries") are heart-rending and indelible. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Sometimes the American Dream isn't all one imagines it to be. Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution as a teenager, having seen his father beaten and removed from the family home. Now, nearly two decades later, he owns the local grocery in a changing Washington, DC, neighborhood. Evenings are spend with his first friends in America, also African immigrants, who quiz one another on African revolutionary trivia. His poor African American neighbors have always kept his store afloat, but now he sees a chance for riches as successful professionals begin buying up the decrepit buildings in the neighborhood and returning them to their earlier splendor. When he befriends his new neighbors, a white professor and her biracial daughter, Sepha begins to realize how much he has missed any connection with family. But the neighborhoods revitalization doesn't help its original inhabitants-rents are rising, old timers are being evicted so that their buildings can be rehabbed, and Sepha is now in danger of losing his store. It's a poignant story providing food for thought for those concerned with poverty and immigration. First novelist Mengestu moved to American with his family as a toddler, fleeing the Ethiopian Revolution. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/06.]-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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