Arabian Jazz: A Novel

Arabian Jazz: A Novel

Diana Abu-Jaber

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0393324222

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"This oracular first novel, which unfurls like gossamer [has] characters of a depth seldom found in a debut."―The New Yorker

In Diana Abu-Jaber's "impressive, entertaining" (Chicago Tribune) first novel, a small, poor-white community in upstate New York becomes home to the transplanted Jordanian family of Matussem Ramoud: his grown daughters, Jemorah and Melvina; his sister Fatima; and her husband, Zaeed. The widower Matuseem loves American jazz, kitschy lawn ornaments, and, of course, his daughters. Fatima is obsessed with seeing her nieces married―Jemorah is nearly thirty! Supernurse Melvina is firmly committed to her work, but Jemorah is ambivalent about her identity and role. Is she Arab? Is she American? Should she marry and, if so, whom? Winner of the Oregon Book Award and finalist for the National PEN/Hemingway Award, Arabian Jazz is "a joy to read.... You will be tempted to read passages out loud. And you should" (Boston Globe). USA Today praises Abu-Jaber's "gift for dialogue...her Arab-American rings musically, and hilariously, true."


















gods of macho domination and chronic dissipation. And that means us.” Matussem referred to them simply as “Arab hoedowns.” “Jordan, Syracuse,” he said, “it all the same wherever.” If the Ladies’ Pontifical Committee had heard Melvie, they would have slapped her name on their Suspicious Laity List. This list, which grew longer each year, noted the latest social indiscretions of longtime offenders and the recent blasphemies of new parishioners. Several Pontificals harbored hopes of one day

tumbled down from a mountain cave, but Fred was afraid that Ricky’s history of loitering would frighten customers away, make them think that Lil’ Lulu’s employed criminals. Jem looked out one of the corridor windows and saw the sprinklers dashing water across the hospital lawn. Inside, the hospital was a vacuum; the walls curved toward the floors, all dull edges. The faces of the people she passed, too, were dulled, marked by their proximity to illness and sterile procedures and the attempt to

out of the house, jingling the car keys, over to where Jem unhappily sat on the lawn in sausage curls and Melvie’s white pinafore. “Jemorah! Grass stains!” Sulking, Jem got into the car on the passenger’s side and Melvie said, “Can’t you pretend to be more animated than that? You’re semicomatose.” As they were pulling out, there was a slight movement in one of the bushes. “Now what?” Melvie said. “I don’t believe it, there’s a Peeping Tom in the hedge.” She stopped and jumped out of the car.

like a wall. Larry watched him with his ice blue eye. He took a swig of his whiskey and said, “My friend, it’s the great American tragedy, that’s all. Don’t let it get to you.” Matussem nodded and began to feel his way along the bar, among the patrons, the schnapps cool as a tile in his hand. He wanted his drums. The patrons scarcely noticed as Matussem began to tighten his instruments, testing the drumheads. He knew some musicians believed there was no point to drumming without an overlay of

house, father, and Jem, Melvie claimed them all. On that bitter February day, less than a year before Melvina, the black twigs in her bedroom window had called Jem outside. She remembered the trees, their dark profiles, their secret lives, tucked away in branch and bark and knotholes. She walked deeper and deeper in, until she stopped among the glaring white banks and, growing drowsy, lay down and fell asleep in the snow. The rest came to her in pieces, mostly told to her: their mother frantic,

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