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Children Of The Revolution
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Children Of The Revolution

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  4,055 ratings  ·  726 reviews
Captures the disorientations and disappointments of immigrant life.
Published October 4th 2007 by Jonathan Cape (first published January 1st 2007)
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This is a magnificently simple book. Deceptively simple, like the Old Man and the Sea, in that you breeze through it and think "nice story" but when you pause for one moment and think about it, you realize that it is so much more than a nice story.

A blend of the political uncertainties and accompanying atrocities of the African continent with the ever present class struggles (overlaid by racial tension) of America. The parallels and similarities are clear but woven through the book in a way that
Big disappointment. This is all about an Ethiopian refugee who's now been in Washington DC for 17 years and runs a grocery store in a poor neighbourhood. Now the author must know whereof he speaks, but I could hardly believe the picture he painted. In 17 years, we are to understand that Sepha, our immigrant, has made precisely two friends. And these two friends have only made two friends - each other. And none of these three immigrant friends have got married or had any long term relationships. ...more
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was the July selection for my book club, but I almost didn't read it because I knew I wouldn't be able to make the actual meeting. But, I decided to read it anyway and I'm glad I did.

My expectations going in may have shaped my feelings about the book. I knew that it was written by an Ethiopian immigrant and that it was about the Ethiopian immigrant experience in Washington, D.C. Before picking it up, I assumed it was a memoir. I thought it would be dense
wow--what a compact, melancholy little novel. written in overlapping layers as the narrator grapples with what has become of his life, it's almost like a snowglobe of sadness, isolation, regret, and loss. shake it, and you see fragments of Sepha's family life in Addis Ababa; shake it again, and you see fragments of his friendship with two other African immigrants, apparently his only close and sustained friendships in America; shake it yet again, you see him navigate with poignancy a new friends ...more
Gary  the Bookworm
Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosThis is an excellent book. On its surface it's about the immigrant experience, but it delves deeper and achieves a universality which is much more profound. Anyone who has ever experienced the dislocation of not belonging to a time or place can relate to this story. Despite socio-economic differences, these characters share a struggle to be part of something greater than themselves. This individual striving to belong assumes socio-political implications as the plot enfolds. Social unrest in a g ...more
It came down to two things for me: The narrator and the location. The narrator's voice is haunting and sweet. Tinged with sadness and hope, that at times made it difficult to bear. But it propelled me on, hoping to see this kind and pitiful man receive some happiness, some lasting beauty in his life. The other characters are mere set pieces (and perhaps I should deduct a star for that?) to generate reaction from our narrator, to give us some peek into his psyche. But those peeks are so well rewa ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4.25* of five

How wonderful it is to find a first novel that feels so accomplished and tells such an engrossing story. I can't imagine that real, enjoyable talent is becoming rarer in a world that contains such eloquent proofs of its health.

Mengestu tells the story of three friends, African immigrants all, who meet in Washington DC, for so long the home territory of nativist sentiment in our republic of exclusion. I don't think a recap of the plot will help anyone decide whether or not to
Seventeen years ago Sepha Stephanos fled Ethiopia during the revolution which called Sepha's father. Now Sepha owns and works in a convenience store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. In seventeen years (seventeen!) Sepha has made friends with a couple other immigrants from his home country, but that is the extent of his relationships in the entire time. As the neighborhood falls apart around him, and his store continues to fail (it doesn't help that he's rather lackadai ...more
Truly a beautiful book! It's hard for me to imagine that this young, driven author was able to describe so well the aimlessness, the lack of drive and energy of Sepha. The novel is about Ethiopian immigrants, but it is really about anyone who is detatched and lost.
The setting is D. C., but it is really about any neighborhood which is in decline. The residents hate that the Circle is so poor and ugly and hate that its gentrification will dislocate them.
Sepha easily falls in love with ten year old
Mar 22, 2008 Jack rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jack by: The City of Seattle
Sadly, this book never really took off for me. I liked the subject (it's about an Ethiopian immigrant living in a gentrifying neighborhood in DC), but I didn't really get into the characters so emotionally the story fell flat.

Half of the story is told in flashbacks telling about the narrator's burgeoning romance with a wealthy white woman who moves into his poor neighborhood, and the other half deals with the fall-out from that relationship. I didn't feel like the balance between these two stor
This novel, the first by Dinaw Mengestu, is set in Washington, DC, at the beginning of the 2000’s. It about African immigrants, one in particular, Sepha Stephanos, an Ethiopian refugee, and the changing city. Sepha runs a small corner grocery store, but after 17 years in the United States, he still hasn’t found his way. He fled his country at the age of 19 after his father was taken away from his home, and killed. His only family member in America, an “uncle” left behind a comfortable life in Et ...more
Тиха доброта лъха от всяка страница на тази книга ... Прекрасна!
Кремена Михайлова
Още от корицата ме лъхна спокойствие (и от заглавието) и се оказа точно такава и книгата. Имах нужда от нещо такова. Семпло, но мило. Без дори да ме кара да мисля кой знае колко. След толкова американски книги и филми пак ми беше приятно да видя един типичен беден neighbourhood на чернокожи. Лесно влязох в атмосферата.

Поради характера на главния герой може читателят да си помисли, че нищо не се случва, да, не е типичната книга с динамичен сюжет, а по- скоро разказ, спомен…

Като за начинаещ писат
Francesca Forrest
Gentle in tone and intimate in its focus, this is exactly the sort of book I was hoping it would be when I suggested it as a possibility for my book group. Sepha Stephanos, an Ethiopian immigrant to the United States, has just two friends, Kenneth (from Kenya) and Joseph (from Congo/Zaire), and spends his days alone reading in his rundown convenience store in a poor neighborhood in Washington, DC. The neighborhood is beginning to be gentrified, and Sepha is befriended by a white incomer, Judith ...more
От цялата книга лъха меланхолия. Чета и си мисля за самотата на човека, заседнал между двата свята. Без възможност да се върне назад, но и без мотивация, без енергия да продължи напред. Като че ли това е съдбата на голяма част от емигрантите - виждат едно идеализирано минало, страдат по отдавна отчуждили се близки, по отдавна изгубени места и спомени. А в новата държава винаги ще си останат пришълци от някъде. В книгата мога да почуствам самотата много силно, може би точно тя обезсмисля всякакви ...more
A thoughtful, sometimes comic, book that explains the American immigrant experience better than anything else I've read. Shopkeeper Sepha appears to embody the American dream, but with his heart still in Ethiopia, his hopes are exiled. He bides his time selling beer and diapers and playing a drinking/trivia game about African coups with two fellow immigrants. Hope arrives in the form of new neighbors, the advance guard of a trend to gentrify the decaying D.C. neighborhood where he has a small st ...more
Jeffrey Dinsmore
Jun 21, 2007 Jeffrey Dinsmore rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of introspective fiction
Full disclosure: I know the author of this book. It is very difficult to judge a book by an author you know. Unless that author is me, in which case it is easy: prognosis - brilliant!

This is the story of an immigrant from Ethiopia and his relationship with his friends, neighbors, and in particular, a small girl in the neighborhood. Not a lot happens, but we learn a lot about the characters and the difficulties facing immigrants in America. The book is getting raves from reviewers, and deservedl
Mar 24, 2008 Rajesh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rajesh by: Myself
Mediocrity’s Cookbook: A review of Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
By Rajesh Barnabas

(For The Ethiopian American, January 2007)

From majestic auspices a middle aged Ethiopian-American shopkeeper negotiates his own desires against the envisioned hopes of his family ancestry or more accurately – his interpretation of their hopes. Sepha Stephanos lives in DC. He moved out of his uncle’s apartment, estranged from the only relative he has in America. His mother and brother still
Dinaw Mengestu has written a fine, chilly, American novel set in the America of rundown used car lots and empty strip clubs, dead cities and their suburban fringes, of lonely commuter trains from nowhere to nowhere. Despite the African origins of most of the characters, and the author's own Ethiopian birth, this is very, very much an American novel-- in its stern-faced tone that harkens back to the American novel's mid-century glory days, in its alienated narrator, in its hard-luck immigrants, l ...more
Jun 29, 2010 Tinea rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tinea by: British landlord in Ethiopia
Shelves: place, high-lit
I was expecting a depressing, heartwrenching book about atrocities during the Ethiopian revolution, when the Communist Dergue overthrew the brutal Haile Selassie empire for an even more violent dictatorship. Instead I got something sad, slow, and altogether beautiful, about loneliness, poverty, and the problems with rich people, the ways casual ignorance hurts, leaves out, entitles. Children of the Revolution, as the book was published in Britain, isn't about Ethiopia at all. It's about gentrifi ...more
When Sepha Stephanos moves to America to escape the Ethiopian revolution, he expects a country full of opportunity, free of racial persecution, and brimming with people just like him. Now 20 something years later, his expectations have been lowered considerably and he knows better than to expect the best. Running a failing, beaten-down convenient store, Sepha struggles to pay the rent and get through the day. He finds some comfort and solace from his two friends, Joseph and Kenneth, but when Jud ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Kathleen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathleen by: Molly
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2014
Sepha Stephanos, an immigrant from Ethiopia, owns a corner store in a poor neighborhood so that he can spend his days reading and getting by. He may be the most sympathetic screw-up in all of literature. I definitely found him to be incredibly easy to relate to. In his friends he has foils of more popular immigrant stories, a poetic waiter, a frugal, hard working engineer, and a taxi driver who was once a very important man.

I love the strangely sad trivia game Sepha and his friends make of Afri
This novel tells the story of first generation Ethiopian immigrant, Sepha Stephanos, struggling shopkeeper in the poor but gentrifying area of Washington DC, Logan Circle.

Written in the first person, the book switches between the present and both the distant and recent past, allowing the reader a glimpse of different paths an immigrant's life can take, as well as helping them an understanding of the harrowing events which often lead to the immigrant's presence in a new country in the first plac
I really liked this book. Stories of how immigrants come to America to make a better life always appeal to me. I really liked this story as it showed a true side of how we are all just trying to get by and sometimes dreams are just dreams.
Dinaw Mengistu is a fluid and effective writer. His settings are convincing--quite an accomplishment when they range from an imperfectly gentrifying slice of the U.S. Capitol, and the brutal revolution of Ethiopia--his characters are human, their dilemmas real. In “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears“, he sets Sepha, an Ethiopian displaced and justly haunted by that revolution and its harrowing effect on his family, in Washington’s Logan Square, a tough neighborhood that gentrifiers have not ...more
Set in Washington, D.C., Mengestue's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears describes Sepha Stephanos' life as an immigrant.

Stephanos fled to America from the Ethiopian Revolution, during which he witnessed his father beaten by soldiers. Today, he runs a convenience store in a rough neighborhood. Though Stephanos tries to get business from the business of commuters in the morning, the food stamp mothers in the afternoon, and the hookers in the night, his store is going out of business. Stephanos
I read this book prior to a trip from my home in Washington, DC to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since there are not a lot of fictional stories about Ethiopia, or ones written by Ethiopians out there (that I could find at least) I was happy when I stumbled across this one, which is both. The story is that of an Ethiopian immigrant's life in Washington. It was especially appealing to me because it served as a bridge between the two locations. The author also did a good job of weaving in his perceptions ...more
AdultFiction Teton County Library

Julia's rating: 5 stars
I finished this novel just over two weeks ago, and Sepha, the narrator, his quiet voice has been haunting me. The arch of the storyline involves a neighborhood in D.C., its changing face, and the lives of a handful of craftfully, sharply drawn characters, including a young girl, her mother and a couple of loyal, funny friends. The novel is not action packed yet somehow it's gripping. And while the reader moves mostly in the present, Mengestu is able t
Barksdale Penick
Even though this is the story of an Ethiopian immigrant in Washington DC, I found much to relate to in our hero, who runs a small food market in a downtrodden but gentrifying portion of Washington, and I can't really put my finger on why. On the surface, we couldn't be more different. I am white, he is black; I have never lived outside left my home country; he was forced from Ethiopia. I suppose I have ambition, while he is content to keep his store just barely scraping along, shuttering the doo ...more
Michelle Conn
May 21, 2013 Michelle Conn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michelle by: Werku Mulattu
Mengestu brings to life the dislocation and feelings of relative isolation of an Ethiopian immigrant who chooses to live and work in the neighbourhood of Logan Circle, Washington DC. The circumstances of the protagonist's horrific departure from his home country at a tender age are detailed, and his encounter with the existing DC Ethiopian established community through his uncle's introductions is explored. Throughout the novel, we are left hoping against hope that the hopelessness we initially ...more
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Capitol Hill Reads!: Second October Discussion 2 5 Oct 20, 2014 12:09PM  
immigration 1 20 Mar 24, 2008 08:35AM  
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Left Ethiopia at age two and was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Graduated from Georgetown University and received his MFA from Columbia University. In 2010 he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
More about Dinaw Mengestu...
All Our Names How to Read the Air The Paper Revolution Children of the Revolution Granta 114

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“There are those who wake up each morning to conquer the day, and then there are those of us who wake up only because we have to. We live in the shadow of every neighborhood. We own little corner stores, live in run-down apartments that get too little light, and walk the same streets day after day. We spend our afternoons gazing lazily out of windows. Somnambulists, all of us. Someone else said it better: we wake to sleep and sleep to wake.” 11 likes
“It's hard sometimes to remember why we do anything in the first place. It's nice to think there's a purpose, or even a real decision that turns everything in one direction, but that's not always true, is it? We just fall into our lives.” 10 likes
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