The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has named author Dinaw Mengestu winner of the fifth annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for his novel, “How To Read the Air.”

The award ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Manship Theater in downtown Baton Rouge followed by a reception, according to a news release.

The Gaines award, which honors African-American authors, includes a $10,000 prize.

“How to Read the Air” chronicles the story of Jonas Woldemariam, a young Ethiopian-American who travels throughout the American Midwest, retracing the journey of his immigrant parents and regaining a sense of purpose in the process.

Mengestu’s debut novel, “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears,” garnered widespread critical acclaim, winning the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Guardian First Book Prize and the Prix du Premier Meilleur Roman Etranger. Mengestu also was included in The New Yorker magazine’s 2010 list of top authors under 40.

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mengestu grew up in Peoria, Ill., and suburban Chicago. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Columbia University and now resides in Paris.

For more information about the ceremony and reception, which is open to the public, call (225) 387-6126 or email