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‘How to Read the Air’ Author Dinaw Mengestu Visits UW

January 30, 2014

MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellow Dinaw Mengestu will visit the University of Wyoming as an Eminent Writer in Residence this term. In a series of visits to campus, he will lead workshops with Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing students, hold public readings in Laramie and Jackson, and visit with undergraduate students in the Multicultural Resource Center and the creative writing minor.  

Mengestu’s reading on campus will be held April 23, 2014 at 5pm at the UW Art Museum. A reception and book signing will follow.  He will read in Jackson on April 26th as a guest of the Teton County Public Library.  

Mengestu, born in Addis Ababa, Ethopia and raised in Peoria, Illinois, writes unflinchingly of the American immigrant and first-generation experience. His novels The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (Riverhead Books) and How to Read the Air (Penguin Books) have garnered high praise for their emotional intensity and stark lyricism.  His first novel was selected for the Guardian First Book Prize, and named a New York Times Notable Book in 2007.  

Mengestu is also an accomplished nonfiction writer, covering the war in Darfur for Rolling Stone, and the conflict in northern Uganda for Jane Magazine. Of his work covering these conflicts, he’s stated: “I was tired of seeing the continent’s conflicts described as ‘hell,’ or ‘hellish.’ Yes, there is more misery and suffering than any one person should ever have to bear, but even in the case of Darfur, that is not the entire story. Underlying that misery and violence are remarkable people who continue to endure and survive despite their corrupt leaders.”  

His forthcoming novel, All Our Names, due in March, will pick up on this exploration of individual endurance and survival in times of political unrest. Set in the 1960s and 70s in the US and an unnamed African country, the novel depicts the point at which post-independence optimism descends into violence and instability.  His readings in Wyoming will celebrate the arrival of this new work.  

In addition to the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Mengestu has received the Lannan Fiction Fellowship and the National Book Award “5 under 35” Award; he was selected by the New Yorker as a “20 Under 40” writer. He was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award.  

For more information about the reading and the Eminent Writer in Residence program, contact The MFA Program at (307) 766-6453 and visit the program’s website at  


Dinaw Mengestu Public Reading

UW Art Museum

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Reception and booksigning to follow

Contact Us

Creative Writing Program

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-3269

Fax: 307-766-3189


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