Strolling through one of our local bookstore of Dakar searching for the perfect Thursday afternoon read if there’s such a thing, but then again for a super- book- lover, everyday feels like the perfect day to chill on your bed and lose yourself through the interesting characters of a great literature piece.
I was first attracted to the colorful book cover of the “Les belles choses que porte le ciel” by Ethiopian American writer Mr Dinaw Mengestu. When I first entered the grocery store owned by the main character Sepha Stephanos, my own life was such a mess that I wasn’t focused enough and put it down forgetting about it somewhere in my dusty personal library which is bigger than it sounds lol.
This past week ,I remembered that I didn’t give enough a chance to my friend Sepha and entered once again his DC’s shop and this time I don’t know what happened maybe it was his mal- etre that was familiar to me, or his great description of the lovely DC area, the melancholia of his two African friends Joseph and Kenneth or perhaps the sweet sadness or confusion felt by his crush Judith or even the big eyes and the boldness of her daughter Naomi..I don’t know probably a combination of all these interesting facts but this time I wanted to stay in his store and even buy something from his dusty and dirty shelves to give some type of hope to Sepha.
As a former immigrant, it’s hard for me not to see a little bit of my own struggle or the ones that I love in his rift between America the Grand and a proud Ethiopia that he knows he will never return to. The author, a very intelligent well spoken young Ethiopian man who attended Columbia, a former recipient award winner in 2006 for a fictional piece did an awesome job making you feel empathetic towards Sepha. At some point I wanted to tell Sepha “get up live… live… live , you are here now in America this is your life stop asking yourself so many questions and run with this life , you’ve been here for 17 +years it’s time for you to simply live”. Sepha immigrated to America following the Ethiopian conflict which resulted in the arrest and killing of his father by the authorities, he moved in with his Uncle in an impersonal America.
In America he lives like a paralyzed man confronted to an impersonal America while living at first in a building crowded with Ethiopian habitants who chose to live the Ethiopian way. He later on finds the usual and necessary: a job, friendship but mostly companionship working at the hotel.
There he also finds the encouragements from his two companions of misery to pursue his dream of opening a grocery store in a predominantly African American neighborhood where he feels important and invisible at the same time until the arrival in the neighborhood of a Caucasian American woman Judith and her intelligent and rebellious 11 years Old Naomi.
Through these 2 generations of woman, rivers of uncomfortable sense affection and tenderness, feelings that had been missing from his life start flowing through him. The reverse side of this emotional knife reveals that he also has to deal the reality of what he became as a result of his financial poverty, his loneliness, gloominess and his emotional paralysis.
I loved this book because Dinaw described well the various difficulties immigrants deal with embarking on this journey, the economic precariousness some encounter, the loss of our illusions regarding Uncle Sam the Big the Beautiful, but also the gap between Africans and African Americans.
With all these challenges I didn’t know if I would be comfortable with the ending as I was getting near to it but … :)
Now that I finished reading this book I can’t wait to get my hands on his second novel: “HOW TO READ THE AIR”...as soon as I do, I’ll def’ offer my personal book review .
In the meantime if you have some free time on your hand I would suggest reading online an essay he wrote for the New Yorker called "AN HONEST EXIT”, by the way he was titled one the best authors under 40 by the New Yorker.(click on the title)
You can also check him out reading an excerpt of his first novel, HERE
Djaa my Ethiopian brothas sont dedans aussi: )
Eyee Wayee: )