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Dinaw Mengestu

Partial list of publications: How to Read the Air, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Genres: Fiction and nonfiction
Awards: 2012 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Athens Prize for Literature Longlist and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Current residence: Paris, France


MFA in Fiction, Columbia University
BA, Georgetown University


Dinaw Mengestu was born in Ethiopia and raised and educated in the American Midwest. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and his MFA from Columbia University. Mengestu has received numerous awards and honors as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction works. His first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2007, and his second novel, How to Read the Air, received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Mengestu’s nonfiction writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Jane Magazine, Harper’s, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and includes articles on recent conflicts in Darfur and Uganda. Recently, Mengestu acted as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Tulane University. He is currently at work on his third novel.

Teaching Experience

  • Distinguished Writer in Residence, Tulane University, August 2008-December 2008: “Advanced Fiction Workshop”
  • Lannan Visiting Professor, Georgetown University, January 2007-May 2007: “Introduction to Fiction Workshop”
  • Adjunct Professor, New York City College of Technology, 2005, Summer: “Introduction to Composition,” USIP Summer Course

Awards & Honors

  • New Yorker “20 under 40,” New York, NY 2010
  • International Literature Prize Finalist, Berlin, Germany 2010 & 2009
  • Athens Prize for Literature Longlist, Athens, Greece 2009
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2008
  • New York Public Library Young Lions Award Finalist, 2008
  • Dylan Thomas Prize Finalist, Wales, UK 2008
  • Seattle Reads Featured Author, May 2008
  • Prix du Premier Roman Etranger, France, 2007
  • Grand Prix de Lectrices de Elle Finalist, France 2007
  • Prix Femina Etranger Deuxieme Selection, France 2007
  • National Book Award Foundation, 5 Under 35 Award, 2007
  • Guardian First Book Award, UK 2007
  • Lannan Fiction Fellowship, 2007
  • New York Times Notable Book, 2007
  • Guardian Best Books, UK 2007
  • New York Foundation for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, 2006
  • My Travel Bug Travel Fellowship, 2005
  • Departmental Research Fellowship, Columbia University, 2002

Selected Conferences & Lectures

  • Earlham College, Freshman Reads Guest Speaker, 2008
  • Bethune Cookman University, Writer’s Jubilee (Keynote Speaker), 2008
  • Harvard University, Guest Speaker, April 2008
  • New York University, Guest Speaker, March 2008
  • Hay Book Festival, May 2007
  • Edinburgh Book Festival, August 2007
  • Georgetown University Lannan Conference, September 2007
  • Duke University, Guest Speaker, November 2007



  • “An Honest Exit,” New Yorker, July 12, 2010
  • How to Read the Air, Penguin Riverhead, October 2010: Foreign rights sold in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark
  • The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Penguin Riverhead, March 2007: Foreign rights sold in the UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Romania, Bulgaria, Catalan, Portugal, Hungary, Turkey


  • “Storying,” Mentors Monsters & Muses, Simon & Schuster, October 2009
  • “Big Money,” Granta, Fall 2009
  • “Why the Expats Left Paris, The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2008
  • “Home at Last,” Brooklyn Was Mine, Riverhead Books 2008
  • “Children of War,” The New Statesman, June 14, 2007, London, UK
  • “A Bend in the River V.S. Naipaul,” The Independent, May 25, 2007, London, UK
  • “Aiding Africa,” Farafina 10, August 2007, Lagos, Nigeria
  • “Abducted at 14,” Jane Magazine, February 2007
  • “The Tragedy of Darfur,” Rolling Stone Magazine, September 21, 2006
  • “At the End of Lonely Street,The New Leader, February 2004