Dinaw Mengestu (pronounced dih- now men-guess-too) was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978 to Tesfaye and Hirut Mengestu. Prior to his birth, the communist revolution forced Tesfaye to flee to the United States, where Dinaw, his mother and sister would join him in 1980. Settling in Peoria, IL, the Mengestu family eventually moved to the Chicago area. Dinaw graduated in 1996 from Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL, where he ran cross-country.
He is a graduate of Georgetown University with a B.A. in English, and Columbia University with a M.F.A. in fiction. Mengestu is the recipient of a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and was the Lannan Visiting Writer at Georgetown University for spring 2007. He received a “5 under 35” Award from the National Book Foundation as well as one of The New Yorker’s “20 under 40”. In 2012, he was a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient and was one of twenty-three to be awarded a “genius” grant from the foundation.
As a freelance journalist, Mengestu has traveled to war-torn regions of sub-Saharan Africa to write about life in Darfur, northern Uganda and eastern Congo near the border with Rwanda. His journalism and fiction have appeared in several publications including Harper’s, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. Mengestu has resided in New York and Paris, and recently returned to Washington, DC with his wife Anne-Emmanuelle and their two sons. He is currently serving as Lannan Foundation Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University.