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Extended Audio Sample The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,992 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dinaw Mengestu Narrator: Dion Graham Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, DC, his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent.

Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mengestu has told a rich and lyrical story of displacement and loneliness. I was profoundly moved by this tale of Ethiopian immigrant’s search for acceptance, peace, and identity.” 

    Khaled Hosseini, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • “[A] tender, enthralling debut novel about the hidden lives of immigrants who are caught between the brutal Africa they have fled and an America that will not full admit them…Mengestu brilliantly illuminates both the trauma of exile and the ways in which so many of us are still looking for home in America.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “This a great African novel, a great Washington novel, and a great American novel.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A deeply felt novel that deserves to be read. ”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “These characters are artfully crafted, original and complex in their humanity. Mengestu wants us to know them, to hear their story, and he succeeds in giving us a novel that is fresh and new.”

    Miami Herald

  • “Dion Graham turns in a fine performance as Sepha Stephanos…Graham’s affectation of an African accent and his reflective tone of world-weariness add the perfect touch to the story of a man whose life takes a few unexpected turns after many years of sameness. Graham’s tone and accent change to reflect the accents of local residents and African friends, adding a pleasant contrast and liveliness to the narrative.”


  • Winner of the 2007 Guardian First Book Award
  • A 2007 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction Finalist
  • A 2007 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • Winner of the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
  • Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Arcadia Public Library | 2/19/2014

    " This title is our January 2010 selection for the Arcadia Public Library Book Group. Please read... and join us. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Katrina | 2/10/2014

    " This novel was beautifully written but for some reason or another it took me an inordinate amount of time (over a week for a book a little over 200 pages). I think this may have to do with an overall lack of conflict in the narrative and the deft subtlety of the author. However, it is one of the better fictional immigrant experiences that I have read in quite a while. The narrator Sepha Stefanos is a struggling shopkeeper stuck between the world that he left behind in Ethiopia and the small attempt at the American Dream that he attempts in his crumbling-yet-gentrifying neighborhood in Washington DC. His loneliness is palpable as are his grief and guilt. The author presents a range of the African immigrant experience between the narrator and his uncle in addition to friends Kenneth and Joseph all of whom realize their attempts at assimilation differently. They pass time recounting how their lives in America are akin to escape from Dante's hell (the title is from The Inferno). When an affluent white female professor and her precocious bi-racial daughter move into the neighborhood, unexpected yet ultimately unobtainable love (or at least affection) is introduced. His shabby store and grandiose hope to have Judith and Naomi as family stand at opposite ends of the realm of possibility. Overall, it just seemed as if something more were supposed to have happened. But, alas, that was what the narrator had supposed of his life in America as well. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Melinda | 2/6/2014

    " Not much happens. Two hundred and twenty eight pages seemed much longer. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Diana | 1/22/2014

    " I highly recommend this book. The narrator, a young Ethiopian immigrant in D.C., shows how easy it can be to find a sense of belonging in places where so many among us are waiting for it. He tells his story in a mild-mannered style with amused every-day observations, then lightly drops profound and lovely human truths that catch my breath. At times, Mengestu's book also aches with the losses and longing of a lonely immigrant. But the young man relishes his solitude so consciously that his bouts of loneliness are almost surprising, somehow bearable and always familiar. "

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About the Author
Author Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He was also named a “20 under 40” writer to watch by the New Yorker. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, Granta, and other publications. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.