Good Minds Suggest—Dinaw Mengestu's Favorite Books About Revolution

Posted by Goodreads on March 3, 2014
Award-winning novelist and journalist Dinaw Mengestu covers the concerns and triumphs of Africa for Rolling Stone and Granta magazine. He also voices the experience of first-generation immigrants in the United States with his two novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air. This month Mengestu's newest book, All Our Names, once again straddles two continents and explores themes of displacement with its story of a young African revolutionary who is exiled to the American Midwest. Born in Addis Ababa, Mengestu himself grew up in the Midwest when his family fled the civil war in Ethiopia for Peoria, Illinois. Now a MacArthur "Genius" fellow and a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree, Mengestu shares his favorite works that portray the hope and turmoil of revolution.

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
"V.S. Naipaul's novel is a harsh and surprisingly prescient account of the Congo's dissolution. As the country slowly fractures, so do the lives of the characters, making it one of the most intimate portraits of revolution—in the broadest sense of that word—in literature."

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
"I think of this as a revolutionary novel, although in this case the revolution has already happened when the novel begins. Saleh's Sudan is independent, the battle for freedom already won, and yet the principal characters in the novel are still trying to forge their identities in a postcolonial landscape that remains bitterly and painfully divided."

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
"There's a reason Dickens's novel about the French Revolution remains a classic. It has the broad, sweeping portraits associated with epic narratives, and yet its scale is so intimate, its characters remain indelible in the reader's imagination. The narrative is operatic, and like all great operas, raises your spirit and breaks your heart."

The Oresteia by Aeschylus
"While not a novel, The Oresteia depicts what is perhaps one of the most significant cultural revolutions in human history. The revolution in this case isn't political but cultural, and as a result the change is infinitely more seismic. At the trilogy's conclusion a culture of revenge, as embodied by the Furies, is transformed into one defined by laws."

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
"Love it or hate it, or even if you've never read it, Marx's book has reshaped the world in a way few other texts have. Its foundation is philosophical, and as such, does what few books have ever been capable of doing: reordering our fundamental understanding of how our societies are structured."

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Well-written novel with a great twist at the end. Strong themes for book club discussions

message 2: by Azeb (new)

Azeb Yoseph i am very proud of Dinaw Mengistu. he is the one who broke the shakcle of Ethiopian writers shyness to be strong and confident in the world of Art. this is how i can explain him.. big love for him


message 3: by Azeb (new)

Azeb Yoseph dear Barj,

i specifically agree with the first statment of your comment. we are still opressed and kept down by the current government. you can't write what you feel and see. they say there is freedom and free press, but here we are seeing blocked freedom and free stress. you are not banned for this. everything is done on the surface for thier political purpose and stabbed you behind using invisible hands. i can tell you my own experince. i published a poem titled " shooting at the drop of a hat" in 2012. it has four English poems and more that 80 Amharic poems. you know what happened with our media? they kept the cassette with them for a week and called me to explain them what the poem is about. i told them that it all about social, love, culture and what i am seeing and feeling from the society. but they didn't transmit it and i didn't want to ask for them. i don't mean it is directly touchung the political arena. they translated it in the way they could understand. this is called lack of free speech and writing (in my context of course).that's why the educated part of the society prefers to leave the country. i am sure you know this. so the only thing we should do is to wait for the Almighty. on my part, i don't have a vision to leave my country but to write non-stop. Dinaw is Lucky..i wish i coulld follow his foot step and i shall pray for that.
big love for you....

message 4: by Azeb (new)

Azeb Yoseph my beloved Barj,
i really thank you for your special and wonderfull explanations for my previous mail. and i would like to inform you that i am a woman who has a courage for the thing i am strictley planing to the thing i wish to be done.

ya, you are right. Dinaw's work is focusing on the issues you raised already. as you said, a person is a person who doesn't miss the satuesque that he has to handle and who doesn't reject what he needs to keep in his hands.
now, i have to stop talking about Dinaw's work as you said it in the right way. i also apologize for the angle i have seen his works. yours is right. and i have to accept my problem of focusing on in his works. thank you very much for the elaboration of his works you gave it to are great and i respect you so much.

for the last statments you mentioned at the bottom of your comment, i am sure i shall be a hero to my country in regard to artistic works with the help of God. this is how you breath your feelings as a writer though it doesn't bring radical change for Ethiopia. belive me, our leaders are thinking not in thier mind. you know the history of Africa very well. to have the crown, there must be bloodshed, to leave the crown, again another bloodshed, to talk about democracy, there is also a bloodshed, to fight for your freedom, there is a bloodshed. they don't even understand that they are living in this world for very few years and they forget that there is another kingdom which is everlasting. i don't know why. so i am living in the same country where such Brutality is happening. but to put my finger print is my share of love for the born and unborn generation.

by the way, i wanna send you my small book what of i spoke last time. do you have this interest? kindley inform me if you do.

you know why? as i wrote you last time, it has four English poems and i need your comment on those before i go to my next work. i am sure your comment will help me more. big big love for you.


message 5: by Azeb (new)

Azeb Yoseph THANKS MY DEAR barj,

kindly forward me your postal address.


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