HIM, ME, MUHAMMAD ALI

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A collection of stories set in Texas, Egypt, Palestine, Michigan, and other spots, and featuring journalists and kids and queers and pregnant girls and birds who are arrested for spying.

Colum McCann: “Jarrar does what every brave storyteller should do-she makes sense of what other writers leave outside the bounds. She connects us with that which others have left unsaid.”

Library Journal: “[A] brave, bright, tell-it-like-it-is collection. . . . Impressively varied in style and content, Jarrar’s collection is recommended for a wide range of ­readers.”

Publishers Weekly: “Jarrar follows up her novel, A Map of Home, with a collection of stories depicting the lives of Arab women, ranging from hypnotic fables to gritty realism. . . . Often witty and cutting, these stories transport readers and introduce them to a memorable group of women.”

LA Times: “This collection is not flowery or sentimental, like many personal stories about the immigrant experience or Middle Eastern family life can be. It’s instead sharp and irreverent, sometimes even unapologetically crude.”

Laila Lalami: “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali is a searing collection of short stories about loving, lusting, losing, and surviving. Randa Jarrar is one of the finest writers of her generation. Her voice is assured, fiercely independent, laced with humor and irony–and always, always, honest.”

Bitch Media: “A collection of short stories about sets of women: friends, lovers, mothers, and daughters. She shows their connections and differences by leaving no topic unexplored—class, language, and sexuality are all at the core of the book. Her style is straightforward and direct while being multifaceted and thought-provoking.”

Kirkus Review“A subtle interrogation of class spanning multiple generations and an exploration of desire enlivened by a dash of magical realism.”

New York Magazine“Jarrar’s characters are memorable, with experiences and observations that oscillate between deeply moving and riotously funny—often on the same page—and she expertly incorporates occasional moments of magical realism in this truly excellent short-story collection.”

Mat Johnson“Randa Jarrar’s prose is bold and luscious and makes the darkly comic seem light.  The voices in Him, Me, Muhammed Ali are powerful individually, and overwhelming as a chorus. This wonderful work isn’t just a collection: it’s a world.”

The National: “Jarrar. . . . manages to imbue her stories and characters with unabashed satire and biting language, melded with an expansive, imaginative geography. . . . In this new, beautifully crafted ­collection she moves seamlessly from ­Istanbul to Sydney to ­Seattle, with stories featuring colourful characters from a variety of Arab ­backgrounds. . . . This endearing book, and its vulnerable characters, indelibly leaves the reader with an intimate sense of love and loss.”

Electric Literature“Jarrar’s style — sensitive, peculiar, and closely observed — [has] roots in Russian literature, but its rhythm sounds modern and entirely her own. Her best descriptions are about relationships and the details we observe in the people we kind of hate but mostly love. . . . Weird, hilarious, melodramatic, gorgeous, and sincerely resonant.”

Peter Ho Davies“Wow! These vibrant, funny, earthy, and above all yearning (for love, for family, for home) stories are a revelation. Jarrar combines the invention of Calvino, the sprung style of Paley, the poetic imagery of Babel. But that mash-up isn’t mere stylistic exuberance; it’s a restless, relentless and deeply affecting effort to forge identity out of fragments, to make a whole out of halves. These are the stories we need right now.”

The Millions“With compelling themes of displacement and reinvention, these stories push boundaries—probing race, class, sexual identity, and family; the role of women in Arab and American culture; and much more. In this collection, mythology meets reality, and Jarrar’s palette spans the world. . . . The thirteen stories in this collection blend humor with rage, wit with pathos. Jarrar presents an astonishing variety, each story as inventive as it is insightful. It’s a book for this oppressive electoral season, where presidential politics are ugly and destructive, and demagoguery is endeavoring to trample a core American truth: Our country’s strength derives from open borders. Jarrar is here with a correction.”

Sam Lipsyte: “Fearless, funny, and sad, soaring and earthly, fable-like and visceral, full of families, lovers, friends, strangers and lonely children. These stories laugh with and think through and rise against, which is just to say they brilliantly demonstrate Jarrar’s huge talent, compassion and range. “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali astonishes from start to finish.”

Booklist: “A sharp collection featuring characters struggling with varied predicaments and relationships alongside explorations of cultural, familial, and personal identity. …Jarrar is witty and knowing, unafraid to explore the tricky pulls of individual transience versus familial responsibility.”

The Rumpus: “Him, Me, Muhammed Ali gets a chokehold on you from the start and doesn’t let you go until you’ve questioned your own life, how you use your body and what you think is your happy place.”

Signature“Jarrar’s work seeks to expand literary representation of Arab people, and her stories take place in cities and countries all over the world. . . . Bold, wry stories depicting the lives of (mostly) Arab men and women, from Cairo to New York to Palestine to Sydney to Istanbul.”

Longreads: “These are stories that don’t compromise—that stand their ground and say come here, because I won’t come to you. And that’s the most valuable thing to read—to go somewhere other than where you are.”

Rion Amilcar Scott, Washington Review of Books“Whether Jarrar’s character is a woman suffering under the small patriarchal tyrannies of family or a half-human, half-ibex creature (also suffering under the small patriarchal tyrannies of family), they always feel fully human and real, pained and searching….An exciting collection.”

First Draft, Aspen Public Radio: “Her characters exhibit a keen sense of humor, and the stories take place in locations around the world.”

Fodor’s Travel: “This collection of stories explores an array of Muslim voices spanning several cities and continents, all focusing on seeking freedom and love amid displacement and loss. . . . These voices and experiences need to be heard now more than ever.”

Star Tribune: “Timeless. . .  Jarrar deftly captures the conflicted emotions that can arise when trying to navigate your own identity and the expectations of loved ones. . . With subtle and precise storytelling, Jarrar has an almost tactile command of the settings of these narratives, and the result is a powerful evocation of the complex dynamics at work in contemporary life.”

Danielle Evans“The world of Randa Jarrar’s stories is wondrous in all of the best ways. Her characters are luminous through all manner of disappointment and displacement, her stories heartbreaking in a way that promises the heart can be put back together. This is a stunning collection, full of sharp, smart stories, brilliant and hilarious observations of human behavior, and ordinary and extraordinary magic.”

The Portland Mercury: “Funny and darkly imaginative. . . The stories are confessional and riveting by means of the deeply intimate and vulnerable spaces Jarrar’s characters allow us to access . . . Jarrar’s fiction has exciting range, and she investigates narrative as well as social taboo. Even when her often-fantastical stories veer towards fable, she subverts any expectation of threadbare fairy tale, always finding affecting depths . . . Like the tightrope walker in the opening story, Jarrar pulls off incredible feats again and again.”

Bookwitty: “Jarrar’s stories are full of surprises—it’s hard to name another tale that’s narrated by a bisexual half Transjordanian ibex living in a tiny town in Texas. But what holds the collection together is its earnest tenderness. Jarrar doesn’t pull punches, as readers of her political commentary well know. But she lavishes affectionate attention on her characters. . . Jarrar’s landscapes [are] divided by class, gender, sexuality, and privilege, but are never wholly separate. The collection links together the rich and middle-class and poor, urban and rural, Global North and Global South, black and Arab and white.”

ORDER HERE  / AVAILABLE FROM SARABANDE BOOKS 

Him, Me, Muhammad Ali from Randa Jarrar on Vimeo.