Tales from Afar
The second installment of BSU’s Visiting Author Series brought to campus Dinaw Mengestu, whose latest novel, All Our Names is one of the notable books of the year. The award-winning novelist and journalist spent the afternoon discussing the craft of writing fiction and later signing books.
Mr. Mengestu is the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner.
After an introduction by Bruce Machart of the English department, Mr. Mengestu spoke in the Conant Auditorium, discussing the process of “aestheticizing” one’s life experiences and turning them into meaningful fiction. His own past involves the departure of his family from their native Ethiopia and coming to the United States. “All stories have begun for me as tales of exile,” he said.
Mr. Mengestu read the poem, “Pastoral,” by William Carlos William to demonstrate what he meant by turning the material of daily life into art.
After his talk, he took questions from the audience, which was comprised mainly of students. When one hopeful novelist asked about how to find one’s style, Mr. Mengestu assured him that there is plenty of room on bookshelves everywhere for new voices.
“That empty space is the space that needs to be occupied by you,” he said.
The Visiting Author Series is presented in conjunction with the Office of Academic Affairs and the College of Humanities & Social Sciences. (Photos by student Steve Rowell, story by John Winters, G ’11, University News)