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Eminent Writer in Residence Schedules Public Readings at UW and Jackson

April 3, 2014
Dinaw Mengestu
UW Eminent Writer in Residence Dinaw Mengestu will hold public readings April 23 in Laramie and April 26 in Jackson.

Dinaw Mengestu, an Eminent Writer in Residence in the University of Wyoming Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program, will hold public readings April 23 in Laramie and April 26 in Jackson. Both events are free and open to the public.

Mengestu, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellow, will celebrate the arrival of his new work during his Wyoming visit. He will read Wednesday, April 23, at 5 p.m. at the UW Art Museum. A reception and book signing will follow. He will read in Jackson Saturday, April 26, as a guest of the Teton County Public Library at 7 p.m. in the Ordway Auditorium as part of its Writers at the Library series.

The Teton County Library’s special after-hours event offers the Jackson Hole community an opportunity to experience the work of a promising young writer. After his reading, a reception and book signing will follow. Participants are asked to use the parking lot gallery entrance because the library’s main entrance will be closed.

During his UW residency, Mengestu has led workshops with MFA creative writing students and visited with undergraduate students in the UW Multicultural Resource Center and the creative writing minor program.

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and raised in Peoria, Ill., Mengestu writes unflinchingly of the American immigrant and first-generation experience. His novels, “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears” and “How to Read the Air,” 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 also is an accomplished nonfiction writer, having covered the war in Darfur for Rolling Stone Magazine and the conflict in northern Uganda for Jane Magazine.

His new novel, titled “All Our Names,” continues his exploration of individual endurance and survival in times of political unrest. Set in the 1960s and '70s in the United States and in an unnamed African country, the novel depicts the point at which post-independence optimism descends into violence and instability.

“Mengestu began this exploration with his dazzling first novel, ‘The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,’ and extended it in ‘How to Read the Air,’” wrote Malcom Jones in a New York Times Sunday Book Review. “Good as they were, those books now look like warm-up acts. For 'All Our Names,’ he has grounded his search in a story so straightforward but, at the same time, so mysterious that you can’t turn the pages fast enough and, when you’re done, your first impulse is to go back to the beginning and start over.”

Mengestu received the Lannan Fiction Fellowship and the National Book Award “5 under 35” Award, and was selected by the New Yorker as a “20 under 40” writer. He also was 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 readings and the Eminent Writer in Residence program, phone the MFA Program at (307) 766-6453 or visit the website at

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