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All Our Names Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014: Idealism, disillusionment, justice and love--these are the topics beautifully explored in this novel by the MacArthur “Genius” grantee and author of How to Read the Air. A young African man called Isaac has come to the Midwestern United States, where he embarks on a relationship with Helen, a social worker, who, for all her heart and intelligence, has trouble understanding him. Part illusion, part product of the revolutionary past in his own country, Isaac purposely makes himself unknowable. Who is Isaac (nicknamed “Dickens” by some, for his love of the writer) now? And who was he as a student in Ethiopia? Do names and times even matter? Sometimes lyrical, sometimes plaintive--“He’s the closest thing I have to a past in this country,” Isaac explains to Helen about a friend from home--Mengestu’s novel is about a young man coming to terms with his past and trying to determine his future. But it’s also a searing, universal story of emigration and identity. --Sara Nelson
Mengestu’s previous novels (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, 2007; How to Read the Air, 2010) established him as a talented writer interested in the imaginations, memories, and interpersonal collisions of African immigrants in the U.S. His latest, which presents the parallel narratives of a melancholy social worker in the American Midwest and a bookish witness to revolutionary violence in Uganda, returns to themes of alienation and exile but also explores the challenges and possibilities of love amid bleak circumstances. Both of his protagonists are drawn to a man named Isaac. Both stories take place in the early 1970s, a time of conflict in African states emerging from colonial rule as well as a time of persistent racial tensions in the U.S. The author highlights the dense slums of Kampala with the same intensity as he does the flatness of his midwestern farm town. But Mengestu is less interested in photographing a particular historical moment than he is fascinated by the dangers each setting imposes upon his vulnerable protagonists and their fragile relationships. And in the end, despite the bleak settings, tenderness somehow triumphs. --Brendan Driscoll
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This is a book about friendship, loneliness, the desire to trust and coping when you know you are being deceived, youthful idealism, the brutality of the human race, and the power of love, including the love between friends. The writing is magnificent and gripping, the content both topical and timeless. This book belongs on the Best of 2014 lists that will be published in December, but I recommend you pick it up today!
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It's worth your time and effort, and you will
never see it on the stupid, stupid television...
This book explores identity, & culture and how aspects of the aforementioned shape us.Read more