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Dinaw Mengestu. Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan/Getty Images for Home Front Communications.

Former US president Barrack Obama has revealed his summer 2019 reading list, and among his selections is the Ethiopian writer Dinaw Mengestu’s second novel How to Read the Air. Published in 2010 by Penguin Random House, the novel follows a man whose father’s death causes him to leave the US for Ethiopia in an attempt to retrace his family’s history. It received the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of two other novels: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007), which won the 2007 Guardian Best First Book Award and a 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is published in the UK as Children of the Revolution, and All Our Names (2014), which was nominated for the Prix Femina etranger. A winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2012, he was named in the US National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” list in 2007, The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list in 2010, the Africa39 list in 2014, and Granta‘s “Best of Young American Novelists” list in 2017. A Professor of Creative Writing at Georgetown University, he chaired the judging panel for the 2018 Caine Prize.

Image from joydelire.wordpress.com.

In July 2018, ahead of his visit to Kenya, Obama listed some of his favourite books by Africans, including Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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