Dinaw Mengestu

Congrats to Dinaw Mengestu and the designer of the cover of his new book, All Our Names. The cover design made the New York Times Best Cover of 2014. This places Mengestu in fine company—with the likes of Haruki Murakami and Italo Calvino whose recent works also made the cut.

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A book cover is an essential part of a reader’s experience with a text. It’s important not necessarily because it illustrates what is inside a book but because it attempts to initiate an emotional connection between the book and the reader even before the book is opened. After all, the cover is typically a book’s first attempt to make a case for itself.

So as we gush over the literary strength or beauty of an author’s work, it’s good to take pause and give a shout out to the designers and artists who mediate the reader’s first encounter with a book.

Mengestu’s novel is his third and features an Ethiopian man living in a Midwestern American town while burdened by different pasts and names he can neither entirely assume nor complete leave behind.

The designer of the cover, which the NYT praises for its “emotional rawness” is Isabel Urbina Peña. She is a cover designer for Random House in New York City. Her portfolio is drop-dead impressive. Check out more of her really cool work HERE.

This news is actually quite delightful given the scandal earlier this year regarding western publishers using stock images as covers for African novels.

Congrats to Mengestu, Pena and Random House!

Dinaw-all-our-names

Credit for Alice in Wonder Land Image: Toronto Public Library Special Collections via Flickr