An Unnecessary Woman
Winner of the California Book Award Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist for the National Book Award “Beautiful and absorbing.”—New York Times An Unnecessary Woman is a breathtaking portrait of one reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, which garnered a wave of rave reviews and love letters to Alameddine’s cranky yet charming septuagenarian protagonist, Aaliya, a character you “can’t help but love” (NPR). Aaliya’s insightful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and her volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left. Here, the gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a nuanced rendering of one woman's life in the Middle East and an enduring ode to literature and its power to define who we are. “A paean to the transformative power of reading, to the intellectual asylum from one’s circumstances found in the life of the mind.”—LA Review of Books “[The novel] throbs with energy…[Aaliya’s] inventive way with words gives unfailing pleasure, no matter how dark the events she describes, how painful the emotions she reveals.”—Washington Post
An Unnecessary Woman
Aaliya Saleh lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s 'unnecessary appendage'. Every year, she translates a new favourite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read - by anyone. This breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman follows Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colourful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her ageing body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left. A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a magnificent rendering of one woman's life in the Middle East.
An Unnecessary Woman
You could say I was thinking of other things when I shampooed my hair blue, and two glasses of red wine didn’t help my concentration. Let me explain. At the end of the year, before I begin a new project, I read the translation I’ve completed. I do final corrections (minor), set the pages in order, and place them in the box. This is part of the ritual, which includes imbibing two glasses of red wine. Aaliya lives alone with her books—books she has collected over a lifetime, books she translates into Arabic with no likelihood that they will ever be read. With her accidentally blue-dyed hair, her cantankerous dealings with her neighbours and her difficult relationship with her family, Aaliya is a character you will never forget. An Unnecessary Woman is a sublime novel, a love letter to literature and its power to define who we are.
In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father's deathbed. As the family gathers, stories begin to unfold: Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching tales are interwoven with classic stories of the Middle East. Here are Abraham and Isaac; Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes; the beautiful Fatima; Baybars, the slave prince who vanquished the Crusaders; and a host of mischievous imps. Through Osama, we also enter the world of the contemporary Lebanese men and women whose stories tell a larger, heartbreaking tale of seemingly endless war, conflicted identity, and survival. With The Hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century. From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Angel of History
“There are many ways to break someone’s heart, but Rabih Alameddine is one rare writer who not only breaks our hearts but gives every broken piece a new life.”—Yiyun Li Following the critical and commercial success of An Unnecessary Woman, Alameddine delivers a spectacular portrait of a man and an era of profound political and social upheaval. Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past and dour, frigid Death who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by 14 saints. Set in Cairo and Beirut; Sana'a, Stockholm, and San Francisco; Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrait of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound, philosophical and hilariously winning story of the war between memory and oblivion we wrestle with every day of our lives. “Rabih Alameddine is one our most daring writers—daring not in the cheap sense of lurid or racy, but as a surgeon, a philosopher, an explorer, or a dancer.”—Michael Chabon
“Daring, dazzling . . . a tough, funny, heart-breaking book.”—Seattle Times “[A] refreshing statement of honesty and endurance ...funny, brave full of heart and willing to say things about war and disease, sexual and cultural politics that have rarely been said so boldly or directly before.”—The Sunday Oregonian When National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle finalist Rabih Alameddine’s dazzling literary debut Koolaids first published it garnered exuberant praise from Amy Tan, Rick Wallach, and Sarah Schulman, among others. Detailing the impact of the AIDS epidemic and the Lebanese civil war in Beirut on a circle of friends and family during the eighties and nineties, Koolaids mines the chaos of contemporary experience, telling the stories of characters who can no longer love or think except in fragments. Clips, quips, vignettes and hallucinations, tragic news reports and hilarious short plays, conversations with both the quick and the dead, all shine their combined lights to reveal the way we experience life today in this ambitious debut from bestselling and acclaimed author Rabih Alameddine. “Rabih Alameddine is one rare writer who not only breaks our hearts but gives every broken piece a new life.”—Yiyun Li “Rabih Alameddine is one our most daring writers—daring not in the cheap sense of lurid or racy, but as a surgeon, a philosopher, an explorer, or a dancer.”—Michael Chabon
I The Divine A Novel in First Chapters
Named after the "divine" Sarah Bernhardt, red-haired Sarah Nour El-Din is "wonderful, irresistibly unique, funny, and amazing," raves Amy Tan. Determined to make of her life a work of art, she tries to tell her story, sometimes casting it as a memoir, sometimes a novel, always fascinatingly incomplete. "Alameddine's new novel unfolds like a secret... creating a tale...humorous and heartbreaking and always real" (Los Angeles Times). "[W]ith each new approach, [Sarah] sheds another layer of her pretension, revealing another truth about her humanity" (San Francisco Weekly). Raised in a hybrid family shaped by divorce and remarriage, and by Beirut in wartime, Sarah finds a fragile peace in self-imposed exile in the United States. Her extraordinary dignity is supported by a best friend, a grown-up son, occasional sensual pleasures, and her determination to tell her own story. "Like her narrative, [Sarah's] life is broken and fragmented. [But] the bright, strange, often startling pieces...are moving and memorable" (Boston Globe). Reading group guide included.
From one of the undisputed masters of world literature, a haunting novel of sublime ambition and power about a man whose fragmentary memories of a lost childhood lead him on a quest across Europe in search of his heritage. Jacques Austerlitz is a survivor – rescued as a child from the Nazi threat. In the summer of 1939 he arrives in Wales to live with a Methodist minister and his wife. As he grows up, they tell him nothing of his origins, and he reaches adulthood with no understanding of where he came from. Late in life, a sudden memory brings him the first glimpse of his origins, launching him on a journey into a family history that has been buried. The story of Jacques Austerlitz unfolds over the course of a 30-year conversation that takes place in train stations and travellers’ stops across England and Europe. In Jacques Austerlitz, Sebald embodies the universal human search for identity, the struggle to impose coherence on memory, a struggle complicated by the mind’s defences against trauma. Along the way, this novel of many riches dwells magically on a variety of subjects – railway architecture, military fortifications, insects, plants and animals, the constellations, works of art, a small circus and the three cities that loom over the book, London, Paris and Prague – in the service of its astounding vision. From the Hardcover edition.
The Skin Above My Knee
The unflinching story of a professional oboist who finds order and beauty in music as her personal life threatens to destroy her. Music was everything for Marcia Butler. Growing up in an emotionally desolate home with an abusive father and a distant mother, she devoted herself to the discipline and rigor of the oboe, and quickly became a young prodigy on the rise in New York City's competitive music scene. But haunted by troubling childhood memories while balancing the challenges of a busy life as a working musician, Marcia succumbed to dangerous men, drugs and self-destruction. In her darkest moments, she asked the hardest question of all: Could music truly save her life? A memoir of startling honesty and subtle, profound beauty, The Skin Above My Knee is the story of a woman finding strength in her creative gifts and artistic destiny. Filled with vivid portraits of 1970's New York City, and fascinating insights into the intensity and precision necessary for a career in professional music, this is more than a narrative of a brilliant musician struggling to make it big in the big city. It is the story of a survivor.
Alif the Unseen
“G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.”—Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and American Gods “Driven by a hot ionic charge between higher math and Arabian myth, G. Willow Wilson conjures up a tale of literary enchantment, political change, and religious mystery. Open the first page and you will be forced to do its bidding: To read on.”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the “Hand of God,” as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen. With shades of Neal Stephenson, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner. “[A] Harry Potter-ish action-adventure romance [that] unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. . . . Improbably charming . . . A bookload of wizardry and glee.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times