This is how they break you

Elizabeth Lowry

  • All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
    Sceptre, 256 pp, £17.99, June 2014, ISBN 978 1 4447 9377 2

‘How was I supposed to live in America when I had never really left Ethiopia?’ the immigrant Sepha Stephanos asks in Dinaw Mengestu’s first novel, Children of the Revolution (2007). Mengestu is himself an Ethiopian-American, having settled in the US with his family at the age of two. His second novel, How to Read the Air (2010), revisited the same question in the figure of Jonas Woldemariam, the struggling son of Ethiopian settlers in New York. In All Our Names Mengestu has again written about a displaced person, but it would be far too simple to call it a novel about the immigrant experience.

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