"How To Read The Air" by Dinaw Mengistu

After spending most of their marriage apart Yosef and Mariam Woldemariam, Ethiopian immigrants, have set out on a road trip from Illinois to Tennessee hoping to create a new identity for themselves as an American couple. Along the way, their relationship takes a turn that will forever affect the family dynamic.

Thirty years later, their son Jonas has left his marriage and job in New York City to retrace his parents road trip, hoping to make sense of the troubles that permeated his childhood and shaped his personality. Jonas believes that through this road trip he will be able to better understand who his parents were and who he is to become.

How To Read the Air is a beautiful story of familial relationships and how deeply we are affected by them. It is a journey of reconciliation and discovery and of how stories, both real and fiction, create and sustain the world around us.

This is a touching novel that gets deep into the soul. It is both American and African at the same time. Dinaw Mengistu's writing is absolutely beautiful. The book alternates between Jonas' life and his parents' road trip seamlessly. The book presents one story in many different lights, which truly enriches the entire novel.

How To Read The Air is an African story from an American viewpoint which gives it a wonderful perspective on the immigrant experience. There has been much praise for the book and it is certainly well-deserved.

Thanks to Penguin Group for providing me with a copy of this book. All of the opinions above are my own and I received no compensation for this review.


  1. I loved, loved, loved this book. Great writing, painfully honest insights.

  2. I saw this book on the 100 books to read 2010
    (for San Francisco Chronicle0 and now I know I got to get this book. Thanks for reviewing this.


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