In a review of Dinaw Mengestu's first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, the New York Times called it “a great African novel, a great Washington novel and a great American novel.” Sepha Stephanos narrates his experiences across these worlds as an Ethiopian immigrant shopkeeper in a predominantly poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, DC. Blending humor with sadness and layering the present with images from the past, Mengestu charts Stephanos's heartbreaking loneliness, his companionship with two fellow African immigrants who mourn and love their countries, and his budding friendship with a young girl and her mother who recently moved into the gentrifying neighborhood. This is a subtly rendered novel, combining despair with hints of the beautiful things in life.
“After seventeen years here, I am certain of at least one thing: the liberal idea of America is at its best in advertising.”
—Sepha Stephanos in The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
The Big Read Reader's Guides are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.