Synopses & Reviews
An Arab-American novel as delicious as Like Water for Chocolate
Praised by critics from The New Yorker to USA Today for her first novel, Arabian Jazz ("an oracular tale that unfurls like gossamer"), Diana Abu-Jaber weaves with spellbinding magic a multidimensional love story set in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles.
Thirty-nine-year-old Sirine, never married, lives with a devoted Iraqi-immigrant uncle and an adoring dog named King Babar. She works as a chef in a Lebanese restaurant, her passions aroused only by the preparation of food until an unbearably handsome Arabic literature professor starts dropping by for a little home cooking. Falling in love brings Sirene's whole heart to a boil stirring up memories of her parents and questions about her identity as an Arab American.
Written in a lush, lyrical style reminiscent of The God of Small Things, infused with the flavors and scents of Middle Eastern food, and spiced with history and fable, Crescent is a sensuous love story and a gripping tale of risk and commitment.
"A timely fiction about Iraqi intellectuals in Los Angeles blends the whimsy of Scheherazade-style storytelling with the urgency of contemporary politics....What might have been the stuff of any romance is forged into a powerful story about the loneliness of exile and the limits of love. An impressive second outing by Abu-Jaber." Kirkus Reviews
"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, author of For Rouenna
"Romantic, whimsical and wonderful in every way, being both sensuous and smart. I want to hang out all day at Nadia's Cafe." Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt
"Please read this book. Diana Abu-Jaber is a high-spirited, magnificently graceful storyteller, a poet of deliciously fluted fiction, character, and culture, and her work is needed now, now, now." Naomi Shihab Nye, author of 19 Varieties of Gazelle
"Diana Abu-Jaber affirms the precious fragility of life, love, family, and the human community in new and meaningful ways." Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Four Spirits and Ahab's Wife
"[A]sensual feast that surrounds us with a comforting cushion of romantic and culinary delights in contemporary ethnic Los Angeles, then shocks us when the tentacles of Saddam Hussein's regime reach into this free-spirited world and drag one of the central characters back into Iraq's malevolent maw." Pamela Constable, Washington Post
"There are not quite a thousand and one stories in this combination of magical realism and totalitarian tragedy. But there is a lavishness of scope and lushness of style that makes for a heady mixture. Diana Abu-Jaber does not hold back on describing the atrocities her own family's benighted country has endured, but she also manages to show why its exiles pine for home." Jessica Mann, Daily Telegraph, UK
"Abu-Jaber captures this despair with exquisite care, but her heart belongs to romance, not tragedy. The allusions to Othello
that waft through the story eventually give way to the uncle's outlandish fairy tale. This is a tough time to consider the artistic and culinary beauty of Iraq, but as one of the cafe patrons says, 'Americans need to know about the big, dark, romantic soul of the Arab.' Readers stuffed on headlines but still hungering for something relevant will enjoy this rich meal." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
Praised by critics for her first novel, Arabian Jazz, Diana Abu-Jaber now weaves with spellbinding magic a multidimensional love story set in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles.
About the Author
Diana Abu-Jaber lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Portland State University.