the weekend read

Does Maaza Mengiste Deserve to Be Your Literary Idol?

Every Friday Vulture finds a great story that’s a little too long to read on the computer screen. Fiction, long-form narrative journalism, epic blog sagas — any of these could be your Weekend Read. Print it out on the office printer, smuggle it home, and curl up with it after brunch.

This week’s Literary Idol extravaganza introduced six “Stars of Tomorrow,” talented writers whose teachers pegged them for future success. We presented you with excerpts of their writings and — yes, we already admitted it was tacky — asked you to vote for your favorite. “I write every day,” 36-year-old Maaza Mengiste told us. “No matter how bad I think it is, I put it down on paper.” If her current lead — 37 percent — is any indication, she’s being modest. So for this week’s Weekend Read, we’re asking her to share a little more about herself through an autobiographical nonfiction piece. In “Cheetahs Under Fire,” Mengiste gives us a window to her childhood in Africa: “I knew the smell of a discharged gun,” she writes, “I grew accustomed to the nightly rounds of gunfire outside our door, I learned not to answer when soldiers came in the night and asked me about one of my uncles, assuming a three-year-old girl held no secrets.” We promise you’ll be moved by her words, but we’re hardly playing favorites — that’s your job. Check out all the contestants and vote for the next “It” author. The polls close at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“Cheetahs Under Fire” [Dragon Fire]

The Stars of Tomorrow [NYM]

Does Maaza Mengiste Deserve to Be Your Literary Idol?