The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears


The Beautiful Things Heaven Can Bear

Author: Dinaw Mengestu

Title: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Genre: African-American Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Publisher: Riverhead Books: New York

Number of Pages: 228

Geographical Setting:  Washington D.C.

Time Period: Current

Series (N/A)

Plot Summary:

Seoha Stephanosan, an Ethiopian immigrant, fled his country 17 years ago at sixteen after his father was arrested and killed during the communist revolution of 1974.   After coming to America Sephos first lives with his uncle in a suburban apartment building while he works at a first class hotel in the city of Washington D.C. Here he has meets two other African men: Kenneth, a Kenyan and Joseph, a Congolese, who remain as his only friends for years.  Sephos eventually leaves the hotel and his uncle to open his own convenience store in a depressed area of the city, where he and his two friends sit at a card table and play games involving guessing the coup leaders of various time periods and African countries: a game that never seems to end. Their consistent days are changed when the dilapidated building next door is bought and renovated by Judith, an ex-professor along with her young bi-racial daughter. Saphos becomes almost a father figure, but this newly minted family is broken apart by the seething resentment of the  “gentrification” of the neighborhood and the backlash at those who have changed the once blighted area; forcing those with less out of their homes.  In the end the resulting violence forces Judith to leave the neighborhood and Sephos to turn his back and walk out on his store. A starting over that is just like the coups in Africa. But they are both Americans now and will start again because they believe that it is possible.

Subject Headings:

Ethiopians United States — Fiction.
Race relations — Fiction.
Washington (D.C.) — Fiction.


candid, sobering, philosophical, insightful, introspective, realistic, accurate, contemporary, political, urban, journalistic, literary

3 Terms that best describe the book:

insightful, philosophical, journalistic

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