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Title:Reconfiguring the African diaspora in Dinaw Mengestu's 'The beautiful things that heaven bears'
Author:Ledent, BénédicteISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures (ISSN 0034-5210)
Geographic terms:Ethiopia
United States
About person:Dinaw Mengestu (1978-)ISNI
Abstract:Dinaw Mengestu's 'The beautiful things that heaven bears' (2007) has been greeted as a subtle and moving exploration of the migrant condition, written in elegant and lyrical prose; one of its main specificities, however, is its calling into question of monolithic approaches to the African diaspora. Depicting the loneliness that characterizes the life of displaced people the world over, this novel offers a glimpse into the specific experience of Sepha Stephanos, a member of the Ethiopian community in the United States. This article examines how Mengestu problematizes the relationships of this individual with white America, but also with other African immigrants and with African Americans. Sepha and the last two groups are bound by their complexion and a similar experience of racial discrimination and have therefore access to a form of black diasporic solidarity; yet, this sense of fellowship is shown to be fragile and ultimately fraught, if only because diasporic identity tends to erase individuals' essential distinctiveness and for this reason cannot accommodate the need of each person to come up with their own singular narrative. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]