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Crescent: A Novel


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About the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and a previous memoir, The Language of Baklava. She and her family divide time between Miami, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.


The Arab community of Los Angeles-a multiethnic mix of long-settled immigrants, the newly arrived, and their U.S.-born counterparts-is vividly captured in Abu-Jaber's intricate second novel (after Arabian Jazz). Ostensibly writing a love story, Crescent weaves a panoply of themes into what might have been a straightforward tale. As the book unfolds, sexual tension between American-born protagonist Sirine and her Iraqi beau, the scholarly Hamir, forms a web around other compelling material: Saddam Hussein's vicious war against Iran, the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iraqi civilians, and the social dislocation felt by political refugees. What's more, multitudinous topics, including community, friendship, loss, and loyalty, are brought to the fore as Sirine uncovers the essence of commitment and devotion. Wise, spirited, and evocative, this work offers an ardent look at the human side of political cant. Essential for all libraries and for all readers interested in understanding the people our government wants us to despise. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A story that unfolds beautifully, as lightly and naturally as a roll of silk." -- The Nation "Readers stuffed on headlines but still hungering for something relevant will enjoy this rich meal." -- Christian Science Monitor "[A] lovely urgent mix of Scheherazade-style storytelling and treatise on the loneliness of exile." -- Andrea Spencer - Oregonian "Abu-Jaber is a high-spirited, magnificently graceful storyteller, a poet of deliciously fluted fiction, character, and culture." -- Naomi Shihab Nye "A powerful story about the loneliness of exile and the limits of love. An impressive second outing by Abu-Jaber." -- Kirkus Reviews "Gorgeously written and deeply imagined, this novel is both a fable and a plea-a book that weaves a hypnotic, lasting spell." -- Beth Kephart - Book Magazine "[A] beautifully imagined and timely novel." -- Publishers Weekly "Crescent is a rich, delicious concoction that has you rooting for the star-crossed lovers." -- John Muncie - The Baltimore Sun "Wise, spirited, and evocative, this work offers an ardent look at the human side of political cant." -- Library Journal "It is a story about how to cook and how to eat, and how to live in the new country. And, like all good novels, it is about how to tell a story." -- Sigrid Nunez

Abu-Jaber (Arabian Jazz) weaves the story of a love affair between a comely chef and a handsome, haunted Near Eastern Studies professor together with a fanciful tale of a mother's quest to find her wayward son in this beautifully imagined and timely novel, which explores private emotions and global politics with both grace and conviction. Green-eyed, 39-year-old Sirine cooks up Arab specialties in a bustling cafe in Los Angeles where Arab students gather for a taste of home. When her doting uncle, who raised her after the death of her relief-worker parents 30 years ago, introduces her to his colleague Hanif, the placid surface of her life is disturbed. Their affair begins quickly and ardently, as Sirine, who has heretofore equated cooking with love, discovers the pleasures of romance, and the exiled Han struggles to feel grounded in a place far from the Baghdad he loved as a boy. In Abu-Jaber's sensuous prose, the city is as lush and fragrant as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and her secondary characters, like the wry, wise cafe owner Um-Nadia and the charmingly narcissistic poet and satyr Aziz, are appealingly eccentric. But a darkly troubled photographer drawn to both Sirine and Han, news of Saddam Hussein's latest atrocities and Han's painful memories of his imprisoned brother and his disappeared sister, for whose fates he feels responsible, cloud their affair, perhaps dooming it. Abu-Jaber's poignant contemplations of exile and her celebration of Sirine's exotic, committed domesticity-almond cookies, cardamom, and black tea with mint-help make this novel feel as exquisite as the "flaming, blooming" mejnoona tree behind Nadia's Cafe. Agent, Joy Harris. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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