Reviews

For HIM, ME, MUHAMMAD ALI

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

For A MAP OF HOME:

Kirkus: (Starred Review):“… Jarrar is a funny, incisive writer, and she’s positively heroic in her refusal to employ easy sentimentality or cheap pathos. …A coming-of-age story that’s both singular and universal—an outstanding debut.”

People: “Depictions of her hilarious family…are punchy and vibrant. Jarrar’s lack of sentimentality and her wry sense of humor make Home a treasure. 4/4”

Christian Science Monitor: “Randa Jarrar takes all the sappy, beloved clichés about “where you hang your hat” and blows them to smithereens in her energizing, caustically comic debut novel, A Map of Home.”

Publishers Weekly: (Starred Review): “Jarrar’s sparkling debut about an audacious Muslim girl growing up in Kuwait, Egypt and Texas is intimate, perceptive and very, very funny. … her exhilarating voice and flawless timing make this a standout.”

Entertainment Weekly: With her big brain, big wit, and big personality, Nidali has a tough time conforming to her father’s rigid 
standards. … Some parts — like Nidali’s grandmother’s fable about flatulence — will leave you laughing out loud. A-”

BookBrowse: “Rare is the book that makes one stay up to finish it; this is one of them, simultaneously circling in its family dramas and spiraling outwards in its connections to history and place. …She’s the Muslim equivalent of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, tender, caustic and wise in all the right moments.”

Oxford American: “In Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home, Nidali, a refugee from Saddam’s bombs, finds a Texan adolescence dizzying to navigate with her Egyptian-Grecian-Palestinian background. Jarrar’s prose is as delightfully dry and intense as her main character… . Sarcastic essays, Arabic lyrics juxtaposed with American rap, and other anecdotes present cross-cultural observations that are both humorous and wistful.”

Bust Magazine: ” Nidali’s voice is a winning combination of the detailed observations of a wannabe writer and the snark of an acerbic adolescent, and with her as a tour guide, readers won’t need a map through this spectacular fresh and funny debut novel.”

Bitch Magazine: “Jarrar…has created a tale of crossing borders (geographic, sexual, cultural, and otherwise) that challenges readers to remap the boundaries of “normal” adolescence.”

Electronic Intifada: “As lyrical as Arundhati Roy or Mourid Barghouti, Jarrar’s pacing is tight and her dialogue approaches perfection. With light and loving characterizations that are entirely free of false romance, her tone is wry, sunny, very feminine and very powerful. A Map of Home is addictive reading.”

WABE’s Between the Lines: “A funny debut novel…about a rambunctious young girl and her eccentric family.”

Globe & Mail: “Randa Jarrar has crafted a warm, ribald and insightful evocation of life in Kuwait, Egypt and the US.”

Booklist: “Ah, eccentric families. In Jarrar’s first novel, the lovable Ammars are talkative, argumentative, and so alive they practically burst off the page. … Jarrar is sophisticated and deft, and her impressive debut is especially intriguing considering her clever use of recent Middle East history.”

Alef:”[A Map of Home] sparkles with humour and intelligence. Nidali tenderly describes her rollicking family life, recounted with both a wicked sense of humour and seriousness. Nidali’s parents are larger-than-life characters. …This brilliant book is not one to overlook.”

Library Journal: “This wonderfully engaging work has vivid descriptions of the different places Nidali lives and the culture she grows up in…. Highly Recommended.”

La Repubblica: “A deep and tender book.”

Gioia Magazine, Italy: “You’ll learn the thin difference between cultural worlds that are similar and yet distinct, and how hard it is to build bridges between them, you’ll smile for the freshness of the feelings and you’ll fall in love with the grace of Nidali’s point of view.”

The Star-Ledger: “Jarrar has endowed her narrator with an ear attuned to every note of family farce… Nidali’s odyssey is as serious as it is comic and deeply moving. During the Bing Crosby-era, this tale of growing up absurd would have been compared to “Catcher in the Rye,” and deservedly so. It’s as achingly coming-of-age as it gets, as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking — like growing up.”

Ms. Magazine: “Jarrar’s debut novel is a narrative of otherness. … Despite exposure to so much turmoil and divisiveness, the teenager finds she is not unlike other American girls—much to her father’s dismay.”

Gay City News: “Jarrar’s youthful heroine makes the journey to these shores … and relates Arab-immigrant adolescence as never before.”

Daily Candy: “This debut coming-of-age novel from author Randa Jarrar is funny and fresh, tackling adolescent insecurities, nationalism, and a longing to fit in.”

Dallas Morning News: “A Map of Home promises to tell us about Arab culture as we never knew it. And using young Nidali as our guide, it does, giving us a multifaceted portrayal of the Arab world.”

The National: “Holden Caulfield’s narrative struggle is primarily to make sense of his individual place in the world. Nidali is more like Stephen Dedalus, the hero of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in that she wants to use the power of art to make the world take shape around her. By the book’s end she is not so much enlightened as empowered.”

Foreword: “This novel is important in that it closes the gap between East and West at a time when the dominant stateside narrative is one of intrinsic difference. Rather than diffusing the “serious” issues, Jarrar divests them of some of their charge to reveal the human conflicts and connections at their root. This is the mark of good fiction.”

Chicago Tribune
: “Moving—and often quite funny—debut about a Muslim girl who is forced to flee Kuwait to Egypt, then on to Texas, where she must really come of age.”

The L Magazine: “Many of the incidents in the book are sweet, vivid or witty, and Jarrar’s descriptions of bustling Alexandria stand out especially, as does Nidali’s enlivening use of minor profanity. Boogers are wiped, crotches scratched and bidets put to use as auto-erotic aids.”

BuzzSugar: “Towelhead meets Persepolis… [t]he kind of story I’ve been hoping to find.”

Naomi Shihab Nye: “Jazzy, and vastly intelligent and fun. Jarrar is a wonderworker with delectable details and sweet swerves of surprise. …I turn to her for gusto.”

Porter Shreve
: “[Nidali’s] is a particularly complicated immigrant story, since she is continually arriving and adjusting only to depart, arrive, and adjust again. On her map of home, the borders are never fixed. …Funny, surprising, and fully alive.”

Leslie Marmon Silko: “Randa’s novel possesses perfect pitch. Her language is pure music and completely original. …  the characters are unique and alive, born storytellers and poets that fill the pages with fierce beauty and a passionate sense of community that spans continents and generations.”

Elizabeth Kostova: [Jarrar] is a born storyteller…stories pour from her fingers, and yet she’s also managed to organize them into a vivid arc. … I think of myself as a fairly hard-bitten reader, but I laughed aloud several times at her narrator’s comments on life and family. I fought a few tears, as well.”

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