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How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu.. Ethiopian-American revisionist family history, a tale of travel and travails. In four voices.

Joel Gardner, LitSnap Editor

"All of his life, Jonas Woldemariam had been listening for tension in the air, not so much to take action but simply to be aware. In his mid-thirties, with his marriage failing, he quietly drifts away from his life emotionally. Not that he’d ever been deeply engaged, or at least he hasn’t appeared to be, according to his wife, Angela, an ambitious attorney with a New York law firm, desperately seeking the stability she didn’t have growing up. Jonas had known childhood instability as well, the child of Ethiopian immigrants who’d separated early in their marriage and reunited later when his father, Yosef, finally immigrated to America, specifically Peoria, Illinois. But their time apart had established a distance the couple could never close, leaving Jonas to witness domestic violence and crushing indifference. Jonas’ narration alternates between the dissolution of his own marriage and observations of a trip back to the Midwest to imagine the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007), offers a similarly languid yet emotionally charged unwinding of relationships amid the turmoil of immigration and cultural adjustment.."


"Early on in How to Read the Air--the second novel from the author of the widely acclaimed debut, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears--Jonas Woldemariam and his soon-to-be wife Angela attend a party, where they tell casual, false stories about Angela's absent father and arrive, all of a sudden, at the fulcrum of this elegant and unusual novel. "To them," Angela notes, "it's all just one story told over and over.."

Author bio: Dinaw is an award-winning American novelist and writer, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In addition to two novels, he has written for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur, and for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His writing has also appeared in Harper's, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. More information can be found here:

Book Details: Historical Fiction; 305 pp. Thoughtful craftsmanship : Kindle/Audiobook/Print editions

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