Penguin Speakers Bureau

Dinaw Mengestu

Named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” Writers to Watch and Author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air

Photo by Mathieu Zazzo


It’s been quite a year for the prize-winning international literary star Dinaw Mengestu. In the summer, he was given a highly coveted spot on The New Yorker's “20 under 40” Writers to Watch list. His highly anticipated second novel, How to Read the Air, was published in the fall and has earned him further critical praise. A heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination, How to Read the Air confirms Mengestu’s reputation as one of the brightest literary talents of his generation.

Mengestu’s debut novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears earned him comparisons to Bellow, Fitzgerald, and Naipaul, and garnered ecstatic critical acclaim for its haunting depiction of the immigrant experience in America. He was selected as a winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Award, the 2008 Lannan Literary Fellowship, The Guardian First Book Award in the U.K., and France’s Prix du Premier Roman Etranger. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2007, one of’s top ten novels of the year, and Lire Magazine’s Twenty Best Novels of the Year.

Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, said of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, “I was profoundly moved by this tale of an Ethiopian immigrant’s search for acceptance, peace, and identity.”

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980, he immigrated to the United States. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction, and the recipient of the 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Mengestu has written for Rolling Stone, among other publications.

Speaking Topics

  • The Immigrant Experience in America
  • Post-Colonial African Conflicts
  • Africa in the Media
  • Writing Fiction
See More Topics


2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Recipient Video

More About This Speaker

Featured Book

How to Read the Air

"Deeply thought out, deliberate in its craftsmanship ... beautifully written."

The New York Times Book Review

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