The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

by

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.

Appeal:

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

3 Terms that best describe the book:

insightful, philosophical, journalistic

Similar Authors and Works:

(Fiction)

Things fall Apert by Chinua Achebe — The growing tension between Nigerian village leaders and Europeans, determined to bring Christian salvation to the tribe, is chronicled here by Achebe. A lone Nigerian, Okonkwo, attempts to fight the dissolution of his tribe, culture and traditions. Written with quiet dignity, this classic novel of Africa builds to a forceful and tragic conclusion. (Novelist)

What is the What by Dave Eggers — The history of the Sudanese civil war is illuminated through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from the Dinka tribe now living in the United States. Driven from his home, he walks with thousands of orphans through incredible danger, disease and starvation to Ethiopia, where he finds safety for a time. Eventually, he makes his way to Kenya, and the U.S., from where the novel is narrated. This is an eloquent and compelling read for any American wishing to understand the tragedy in East Africa.  (Novelist)

Beneath the Lion’s gaze: A Novel by Maaza Mangiste – An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopias revolution.

(Non-Fiction)

Chameleon Days: an American boyhood in Ethiopia by Tim Bascom– A candid memoir of growing up in Ethiopia recounts his youth as the son of missionary parents in a sometimes hostile country wracked by conflict, social upheaval, and ultimately revolution. Original. (Novelists)

There is No Me Without You: one woman’s odyssey to rescue Africa’s children by Melissa Green –Offers a revealing study of the human cost of the AIDS pandemic in Africa in a portrait of Haregewoin Teferra, a widowed recluse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who has become the caretaker of sixty children orphaned and abandoned by the AIDS crisis. (Novelist)

The Ethiopian Patriots: forgotten voices of the Italo-Abyssinian War, 1935-41 by Andrew Hilton — “This book consists of the recollections of men and women who took part in the Ethiopian resistance movement during the Italo-Abyssinian War of 1935-41. Their long, lonely struggle is testament to their courage, determination, faith and national pride. The fighters became known simply as ‘Patriots’ and these recollections are transcripts of personal interviews with some of their surviving numbers.”–BOOK JACKET

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