André Béchard was an assumed identity, and the man had a colorful, criminal, adventurous past, robbing close to 50 banks in Quebec and running from the law. Deni grew up negotiating a fraught relationship with his father (who lived in Vancouver) and his mother (in Virginia) and also inherited a love of adventure from his father. The book is a really beautiful and moving tale of loss and love.
We were very happy that Deni Béchard was in this neighborhood during our Festival because he agreed to host an event on African writing. Anyone who keeps up with Deni's Facebook page will know that the man is always on the move: Afghanistan, Tanzania, the Middle East, so he seemed like a natural choice when we were looking for a host for an event entitled Unforgotten Lands: Writing and Remembering.
This event is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 11:00 a.m. and will be discussion with Dinaw Mengestu and Yejide Kilanko.
Mengestu is an interesting figure: born in Ethiopia, he came to the US when he was 2 years
"...forged something meaningful from his cultural perspective. The book lingers in the mind as personal - not in the characters' specifics, but in their frustrated dislocation in the world. Now that the remarkably talented Mengestu has successfully explored these ideas in two books, one looks forward, excitedly, to watching the author's gaze expand to the world beyond his own experience."
(Yes, a slight dig there at the end, but a constructive and hopeful one.)
Mengestu, incidentally, was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Grant for 2012, one of the most prestigious honors given to a writer (among other professions).
This is a great opportunity to hear three young writers with vastly different backgrounds at early stages in their careers. Tickets to the event, Unforgotten Lands: Writing and Remembering, with Dinaw Mengestu and Yejide Kilanko, hosted by Deni Béchard, are a steal at $10 and can be purchased here.