Dinaw Mengestu and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have a lot in common. Both have received $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants— Mengestu in 2012, Adichie in 2008. Both were born in Africa— Mengestu in Ethiopia, Adichie in Nigeria. And both were named among the New Yorker’s 20 best writers under 40.
Mengestu’s novels and journalism focus on the African diaspora in the US. His first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, was about an Ethiopian refugee in a gentrifying DC neighborhood. His third, All Our Names, which he describes as a capstone to the first two, is slated for publication later in 2013. Until then, the 34-year-old Georgetown University alum and writing teacher will continue reporting in war-torn parts of Africa.