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From acclaimed author Dinaw Mengestu, a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, <i>The</i> <i>New Yorker</i>’s 20 Under 40 award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, comes an unforgettable love story about a searing affair between an American woman and an African man in 1970s America and an unflinching novel about the fragmentation of lives that straddle countries and histories. <br><br> <i>All Our Names</i> is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.<br> <br>Elegiac, blazing with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives, <i>All Our Names</i> is a marvel of vision and tonal command. Writing within the grand tradition of Naipul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, of self-determination and the names we are given and the names we earn.
<p><strong>An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014:</strong> Idealism, disillusionment, justice and love--these are the topics beautifully explored in this novel by the MacArthur “Genius” grantee and author of <em>How to Read the Air</em>. 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. <em>--Sara Nelson</em></p>