The Dreaded Librarian recently had the great privilege of having dinner with author Dinaw Mengestu following a reading he did at the local liberal arts college. He is an Ethiopian-American writer who has been listed as one of "the top 20 authors under 40." His two books, "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears," and "How to Read the Air," have received plenty of praise for their prose and captivating stories.
Despite working at a library, there are very few authors who I have met. I remember being in 5th grade and realizing that I wanted to be a writer, and that dream stuck with me through all of high school and even into college. My aspirations, though unrealistic, involved being a published novelist by age 16, writing and illustrating a childrens' book, and majoring in creative writing in college. Alas, none of these dreams have reached maturation, and yet my dream of some day meeting and talking with a real live author has been blissfully achieved.
Mr. Mengestu lead an informal writing discussion with several teenage aspiring writers, and his words were both motivational and inspirational. What I liked most about him is that he lacked the pretentious air that I expected to come with fame, and rather spoke with calm strength and down-to-earth wisdom. He was intrigued by our community and the incredibly unexpected diversity found within such a small and run-down city. My library kids were very excited to ask him about his life and his books, trying to find commonalities between their African refugee background and his Ethiopian immigration stories.
Overall, the visit was an incredible experience (for both the youth and myself!), and now that I am in the midst of one of his books (rather belated, I know) I can also highly recommend picking one up and reading it. I am currently wrapping up "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" and have found his writing beautifully lyrical, with strong imagery and a slow, relaxed sense of melancholia. Get to your local library and check it out-- literally!