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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by…

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

by Dinaw Mengestu

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734None12,708 (3.74)91
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    All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones (cransell)
    cransell: A different, also fictional, look at life in DC beyond the world of politics.

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
the color has changed to blue on this new edition; it almost signifies a coming to sadness for the truth of the coming out the story took place to make it to market; it appears to signify much more than a long-term marketing attempt at selling a book that could become super-sucessful. a lot of groundwork had to take place for this to happen; it appears the cover color is being hidden to not reveal the underlying real situations that the book uncovered. it almost wants to make a reviewer of the first copy cry in tears for things taking place in the continent, things which need more stories to appear, to honor all those who fell to make their journey here heard resound truly and enduringly... ( )
  YonZe | Nov 15, 2013 |
Pensavo diverso!La storia è stata comunque abbastanza particolare!Parla degli immigrati in America e della loro vita in America!Niente di che! ( )
  Emanuela.Booklove | Oct 6, 2013 |
A moving novel about Ethopian exiles living in Washington, DC, this novel vividly recalled for me the sights, sounds, and people of Washington, DC, and encounters I had with refugees while living and working there. A beautiful book. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
I really think this is an important novel for people in America who may not understand race relations, African coup and genocides, and an immigrant's perspective. The novel really deals with a sense of humanity in terms of an African immigrant who escapes brutality to start over in America and his two friends who continually recall the history of each revolution in each African country. It seems like every single country is wracked with a sense of political revolutions and violence.

In America, this violence is more subtle and takes place over a larger expanse of time. It's the violence that comes with re-gentrification and opportunity for profit. We all know the story-it's the story of Cabrini Green in Chicago, for example, and happens in many neighborhoods throughout probably every major city in America and beyond. A neighborhood is affordable to live in and, even if there is crime, there is often a sense of community and similar background. There is also a similar economics at play. So when people with money start to invest in housing in the place, suddenly the cost of housing for the people who have lived their all of their lives rises drastically. Those people are usually evicted and have to move to another location. Meanwhile, those buildings, often tenements, are razed and condos and townhomes that are much more $$$ are erected. I think this often happens because, in a housing boom, people buy into the idea of owning property but often people even in the middle-upper middle class bracket have difficulty buying the housing they want in the neighborhood they want..so they move to neighborhoods where housing is cheaper, which causes those neighborhoods to change in a way that excludes and discriminates against it's long term residents.

I don't think there's an easy answer to this dilemma and often I think it's something that results from local city government policy that perceives the existing citizens as trouble and instead of offering them support, the local government decides to try to push these people to different counties and cities to avoid dealing with the issues of poverty and crime altogether. The mayor and governors see these residents as a loss in terms of tax dollars and a financial strain, not the human factor at all.

But the novel also really shows the possibilities of unusual friendship,a kinship with oddly the great Dostoevsky, and a sense of what an African immigrant's life might be like here in all its assorted new perils and issues. My main issue with it is that it was waaay too short. These ideas and issues are too complex for a mere 228 pages to be fully explored. The novel would be much more realized at 500-600 pages imo.

Favorite quotes:

pg 38: "They had names like Chocolate and Velvet, always things that you could touch and taste because the imagination is nothing if not tactile."

pg 130: "I've never felt a disappointment so close to hatred again."

pg 162-163: "There was a unique fear that came with feeling that it was the inanimate objects around you that frightened you most."

pg. 169: "To what we hope is nothing short of a permanent dawn."

pg. 221: "Our weapons are not accidents. They're a part of who we are." ( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |

Some have said that this is a slow novel in which little happens. While I think these comments are true, they are not negative, and stopping there misses the point. Nor is it simply a story of the erosion of the immigrant's dream. Sepha Stephanos is not just an immigrant from Ethiopia who fled the war and didn't get the girl. The story is more subtle than that. Stephanos is paralyzed by memory and guilt. This guilt isn't just because of what he did and didn't do in Ethiopia or the U.S.; it is the guilt of a survivor, the guilt that makes simply being alive an almost unbearable burden. The circles of Washington, D.C.'s roads are the circles of Dante's hell (alluded to in the title). As in The Ministry of Pain, what nostalgia the immigrant can muster is impaired and tainted by the memories of war. Stephanos's flat guardedness is the point of his story, and perhaps his downfall as well. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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To Hirut and Tesfaye Mengetsu, for everything.
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At eight o'clock Joseph and Kenneth come into the store.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Barely suppressed despair and black wit infuse this beautifully observed debut from Ethiopian émigré Mengestu. Set over eight months in a gentrifying Washington, D.C., neighborhood in the 1970s, it captures an uptick in Ethiopian grocery store owner Sepha Stephanos's long-deferred hopes, as Judith, a white academic, fixes up the four-story house next to his apartment building, treats him to dinner and lets him steal a kiss. Just as unexpected is Sepha's friendship with Judith's biracial 11-year-old daughter, Naomi (one of the book's most vivid characters), over a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Mengestu adds chiaroscuro with the story of Stephanos's 17-year exile from his family and country following his father's murder by revolutionary soldiers. After long days in the dusty, barely profitable shop, Sepha's two friends, Joseph from Congo and Kenneth from Kenya, joke with Sepha about African dictators and gently mock his romantic aspirations, while the neighborhood's loaded racial politics hang over Sepha and Judith's burgeoning relationship like a sword of Damocles. The novel's dirge-like tone may put off readers looking for the next Kite Runner, but Mengestu's assured prose and haunting set pieces (especially a series of letters from Stephanos's uncle to Jimmy Carter, pleading that he respect "the deep friendship between our two countries") are heart-rending and indelible
Haiku summary
I left Africa
But I'm going back. Or am
I?  Where's my best self?           [yalliejane]

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"Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage out of the country. Now he finds himself running a grocery store In a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where his daytime customers are schoolchildren and his nighttime customers are prostitutes and alcoholics. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants, a Congolese waiter and a Kenyan engineer, who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. Years ago, half a world away and still In the embrace of family, he never would have imagined himself living a life of such isolation." "But after a long period of blight, Sepha's neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes In the form of new neighbors - Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter - who restore the grand, dilapidated house next door. They become his friends and remind him for the first time In years of what having a family Is like. But their arrival signals something more profound for the neighborhood's long time residents, and when its newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial Incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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