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Extended Audio Sample The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears Audiobook, 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: March 2007 ISBN: 9781436132954
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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.”

    AudioFile

  • 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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Talya | 1/21/2014

    " Overall I enjoyed this novel. I thought, at first, the novel was a memoir due to the author's small bio that I had read prior and the book jacket flap. It is a work of fiction about a man fled to the US from Ethiopia after the revolution. He moved to DC, and having lived in DC for some time I enjoyed reading about through the character's eyes. I find gentrification fascinating as I am seeing it currently outside of my window in Seoul. Although much didn't seem to happen in the book the characters were so developed that they were able to tell the story. The characters and their relationships with each other felt so true. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeweleye | 1/10/2014

    " I liked the story and the writing, but I tend to agree with one of the reviews that expressed skepticism about the characters. An immigrant who lives in a place for 17 years and only has two friends? I can allow poetic license for that part and call it lack of character development in a short book. What I was more skeptical about was Stephanos reading Doestoevsky to a 10 or 12-year old child. Really? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peri Kinder | 1/8/2014

    " This book is written simply and elegantly but really only hints at the experiences Sepha has been through in Ethiopia. He goes through his life very resigned to his existence and it was very frustrating that he wasn't more proactive in his choices. Still, a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beth | 1/4/2014

    " Great book and quick read. Lots of food for thought about the immigrant experience, as well as life of the city and American experience. Loved the writing too. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Myra | 1/2/2014

    " This is a fabulous debut novel. selected as the 2008 Seattle Reads book, this award-winning novel is incredibly elegant, literary and wonderful story that moved me so much. I am recommending this to EVERYONE! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 12/29/2013

    " A story about everyday life and the people who live it. It gives us the perspective of an immigrant who has a store, "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cristin | 12/2/2013

    " This was such a beautiful book - a true Washington DC novel set in my old neighborhood, Logan Circle. I loved it. It was both tender and painful at the same time. I also like that the author is a young writer - he and I were at Georgetown at the same time! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joseph | 11/18/2013

    " while I didn't find myself engrossed in this novel, I think it'd make a really great movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colleen | 10/21/2013

    " Well-written and complex story about an Ethiopian immigrant living in the Logan Circle area of DC. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eve | 9/3/2013

    " Mengestu packs a lot of meaning and sad beauty into a short novel. It's about an African immigrant who owns a convenience store in a run-down but gentrifying neighborhood of D.C. This was the "Seattle Reads" book a few years ago. He just published a new novel that I haven't read yet. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stacy | 5/27/2013

    " A thought provoking book. The plot was not overly interesting, but that was not the point. Overall: glad I read it, but not wild enough about it to read it again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jerrilynn | 2/2/2013

    " Well written, kind of a sleeper. The portrait of a complex, man struggling with questions of love and loyalty. The erosion of an immigrants dream,and he carries so much guilt. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tania Tavares | 9/23/2012

    " Unique inside view of the immigrant experience and inner city realities. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jordan | 7/10/2012

    " An impressive first novel that's only occasionally heavy-handed, THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT HEAVEN BEARS has the makings of a play, possibly even a movie. Wouldn't be surprised to see this one adapted down the line. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kit | 3/8/2012

    " Also published under the title, "Children of the Revolution," it is both a tale of every man's struggle to adapt to living in a new country and a personal account of the tragedies that are occurring in Africa...a recommended read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim | 2/19/2012

    " Some great moments, but not enough of them. As a vehicle for sharing a bit of African history, this is an interesting novel. As a story of three immigrants building new lives in DC, it is less successful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tegan | 11/24/2011

    " First fiction I got through with ease since Summer of 2008. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brook | 10/14/2011

    " A sweet, quiet book about the everyday life of an Ethiopian shopkeeper in a gentrifying neighborhood of Washington, DC. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mel | 6/29/2011

    " One of the best books I have read this year. It is a great depiction of the lonely existence many African immigrants to the US experience. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Neil | 6/23/2011

    " The protagonist is self-defeating to a frustrating degree. A lot of local D.C. references which make parts of the book interesting. Despite not loving the book and almost loathing the main character, the book made me more aware of the other people who live in this city. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nmdb22 | 5/16/2011

    " lovely in tone and use of language, effective foreshadowing, humorous and genuine in the way the Africans relate to each other and describe their world and deals with very serious substance. quite a good book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 5/11/2011

    " Fun to read since it takes place about 15-20 years ago in my DC neighbordhood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisette | 5/4/2011

    " simple prose- beautiful depictions of a modern immigrant experience and affection "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Therese | 3/25/2011

    " While I didn't hate this book I didn't particularly love it either. The story for me was just flat. Not something that I'd recommend anyone to read or not read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marlene | 3/24/2011

    " This was very well written book and profound and thought provoking.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 liz | 3/22/2011

    " Especially loved that it took place in DC, allowing me to visualize the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joni | 3/21/2011

    " There's something about this book that I loved. There's an emptiness to it. Some authors try to fill up the emptiness. This author embraces it and makes it beautiful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sean | 3/12/2011

    " A beautiful portrayal of an alienated soul. Strange to read a novel about my own neighborhood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Natalie | 2/17/2011

    " Loved this, thanks Ashindi. A must read for DC folks, particularly Logan Circle. It's a heart breaking meditation on isolation and being an outsider--but so beautiful "

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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.

About the Narrator

Dion Graham, from HBO’s The Wire, also narrates The First 48 on A&E. Winner of more than a dozen Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award for best narration, he has performed on Broadway, off Broadway, internationally, in films, and in several hit television series. His performances have been praised as thoughtful and compelling, vivid and full of life.