The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Book - 2006
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Penguin Putnam
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. He realizes that his life has turned out completely different and far more isolated from the one he had imagined for himself years ago.

Soon Sepha's neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes in the form of new neighbors-Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter-who become his friends and remind him of what having a family is like for the first time in years. But when the neighborhood's newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Told in a haunting and powerful first-person narration that casts the streets of Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa through Sepha's eyes, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a deeply affecting and unforgettable debut novel about what it means to lose a family and a country-and what it takes to create a new home.

Baker & Taylor
Seventeen years after fleeing the Ethiopian revolution to America, Sepha Stephanos runs a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where he witnesses a series of racially charged incidents and bitterly reflects on his past and the differences between his actual prospects and the life he imagined. A first novel.

Blackwell North Amer
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage out of the country. Now he finds himself running a grocery store In a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where his daytime customers are schoolchildren and his nighttime customers are prostitutes and alcoholics. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants, a Congolese waiter and a Kenyan engineer, who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. Years ago, half a world away and still In the embrace of family, he never would have imagined himself living a life of such isolation.
But after a long period of blight, Sepha's neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes In the form of new neighbors - Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter - who restore the grand, dilapidated house next door. They become his friends and remind him for the first time In years of what having a family Is like. But their arrival signals something more profound for the neighborhood's long time residents, and when its newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial Incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Baker
& Taylor

Seventeen years after fleeing the Ethiopian revolution, Sepha Stephanos runs a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where he reflects on his past and the differences between his prospects and the life he imagined.

Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2006
ISBN: 9781594489402
1594489408
Branch Call Number: FICTION MENGESTU
Characteristics: 228 p.

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FederalWayEdna Dec 26, 2015

In the 1980s, there was a noticeable increase of Korean immigrants into predominantly white and African-American neighborhoods in the Puget Sound area. In our neighborhood, one of the first small business to be leased by an immigrant was the local gas station-market. The feel of our community changed and not without apprehension and cultural tension that was exhibited, if not physically, verbally. This book forced me to recall that unpleasant period - it's a story that delves into the heart of an immigrant who wants to integrate but feels his limits whether imposed by the community or by himself.

c
ch1981
Jun 11, 2013

Interesting because of my interest in the immgrant story, but overall lacked direction. I kept waiting for the exact plot to emerge.

l
Liber_vermis
Jun 26, 2011

This fictional account of the African diaspora existence in the United States sparkled, from time to time, with an unusually vivid description, or an engaging sequence of dialogue. But the sparkles were few and far between.

The content is like a series of human interest clippings from the Washington Post newspaper that have been assembled on post-it notes into a manuscript. Two-thirds of the way through this tale of misery, the main character Sepha Stephanos asks himself: “Where is the grand narrative of my life? … It seems to have run out … It’s harder to admit that perhaps it had never been there at all.” (p. 147) The answer is that there is no plot in this book.

How could Stephanos frequently go drinking with his African friends and availing himself of the prostitutes in his neighbourhood when he operated his corner store so indifferently that his sales were insufficient to pay the rent and other bills? Is The Brothers Karamazov credible reading material for an eleven year old child? The five characters in this story have terrific potential … but the author has failed to develop them. It’s all rather pathetic.

f
foshee07
Nov 12, 2010

This book will break your heart. The writing is subtle and true.

c
Cabby
Feb 08, 2008

Amazon.ca top 25 books of 2007.

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ndp21f
Feb 10, 2011

This is how it happened in Zaire," Joseph said. "One day we heard that some people were beaten up by guys with guns. The next day we had a rebel group walking through the neighborhood saying they had come to liberate us from the government. To prove their point they shot five people in the street who were responsible for our oppression."

"You must have been grateful," I said.

"Of course we were. We didn't even know that we were oppressed. Imagine our surprise and joy to find out that we had been. We gave the rebels all the money we had to thank them. I remember one man was so happy he even gave them his wife and daughter.

n
ndp21f
Feb 10, 2011

For those thirty minutes I had it all, and perhaps if I had been a wiser man I would have been content with just that.

n
ndp21f
Feb 10, 2011

I wanted to applaud Naomi for her foresight. Judith and I were both being conned, but neither of us particularly minded. To earn that kind of trust and affection from a child is to find out that you may have just been a better person than you believed all along.

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Liber_vermis
Jun 26, 2011

Liber_vermis thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

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