By Mark Mathitakis
Yesterday the wide world learned that novelist and journalistÃ‚Â Dinaw MengestuÃ‚Â was one of this year’sÃ‚Â 23 MacArthur FellowsÃ¢â‚¬â€recipients of so-called “genius grants.” But Mengestu himself has had the better part of two weeks to ponder theÃ‚Â prize, and after keeping the news to himself for a while, he’s enjoying being able to talk about it. “The past 24 hours have been a bit hectic, but it actually been kind of a relief to be sure that you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just invent this and that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s real,” he says.
Mengestu is the author of two fine novels, 2007’s D.C.-setÃ‚Â The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, and 2010’sÃ‚Â How to Read the AirÃ‚Â (which made myÃ‚Â top 10 list of books for the year), both stories largely about African immigrants building new lives in America. He’s recentlyÃ‚Â moved back to D.C. from ParisÃ‚Â to teach at GeorgetownÃ¢â‚¬â€audioÃ‚Â of a Sept. 25 lecture at the Lannan Center went online yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â€but he received the good news well away from the District. He was in Nairobi, Kenya, for a literary festival, and he says he’s thinking about how he can use the prize to help support publishing in Africa. Read more