How to Read the Air

How to Read the Air

Book - 2010
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From the prizewinning international literary star: the searing and powerful story of one man's search for redemption.

Dinaw Mengestu's first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears , earned the young writer comparisons to Bellow, Fitzgerald, and Naipaul, and garnered ecstatic critical praise and awards around the world for its haunting depiction of the immigrant experience. Now Mengestu enriches the themes that defined his debut with a heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination, which confirms his reputation as one of the brightest talents of his generation.

One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father's trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents' youth to his life in the America of today, a story--real or invented--that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.

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Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Riverhead Books, 2010.
ISBN: 9781594487705
Characteristics: 305 pages ;,22 cm.


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Jul 07, 2016

The story of Jonas, the son of Ethiopian immigrants to the Midwest, is told in several threads, his marriage, his relationship with his parents, and his parents life in the Midwest. Mengetsu’s approach to telling this story is original and interesting.

ChristchurchLib Sep 19, 2012

Comprised of the chronicles of two physical journeys - the original undertaken by two Ethiopian immigrants to the U.S. and retraced, 30 years later, by their emotionally numb son - this tale of immigration and the consequences of imperfect communication will appeal to readers interested in the psychological toll taken by immigrating to a new country and culture. Though How to Read the Air centers on Ethiopian immigrants in Illinois and their Americanized son, those enamored of it may also like The Namesake, a similarly literary novel that details the challenges facing an Indian family that has immigrated to Massachusetts.

Listed in the Next Reads Fiction A to Z newsletter September 2012

debwalker Nov 18, 2010

Mengestu, one of the New Yorker’s new under 40 American authors, writes about a son of Ethiopian immigrants who reconstructs his murky family history via a road trip his parents took to Nashville before his birth.

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