I can't stop thinking about this book. I can't stop talking about this book. It's really just that good. The Map of Salt and Stars is the story of a Syrian refugee family, told in the most beautiful and moving way. It's such an important topic to be cognizant of, and Joukhadar is the best storyteller you'll ever read. It's a story about stories. A story about loss, displacement, tragedy — but ultimately hope. Please read this book. Recommended By Carrie K., Powells.com
Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar's debut novel weaves together the story of Nour, a 12-year-old girl swept up in the exodus of refugees from the Syrian Civil War with her family, and Rawiya, a 16-year-old girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to join Muhammad al-Idrisi's famous expedition across the Mediterranean to map the known world in the 12th century. The parallels between the inner strength Nour finds in her heart and the strength and determination that define Rawiya's journey are many. A gorgeous, lyrical, must-read book that explores adventure, migration, grief, and, most importantly of all, hope. Recommended By Mary S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"This imaginative but very real look into war-torn Syria is a must." – Booklist (Starred Review)
This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart — a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker — places today’s headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again.
In the summer of 2011, just after Nour loses her father to cancer, her mother moves Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. In order to keep her father’s spirit as she adjusts to her new home, Nour tells herself their favorite story — the tale of Rawiya, a twelfth-century girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker.
But the Syria Nour’s parents knew is changing, and it isn’t long before the war reaches their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a stray shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety — along the very route Rawiya and her mapmaker took eight hundred years before in their quest to chart the world. As Nour’s family decides to take the risk, their journey becomes more and more dangerous, until they face a choice that could mean the family will be separated forever.
Following alternating timelines and a pair of unforgettable heroines coming of age in perilous times, The Map of Salt and Stars is the epic story of one girl telling herself the legend of another and learning that, if you listen to your own voice, some things can never be lost.
"The Map of Salt and Stars is the sweeping, thrillingly ambitious tale of Nour, Rawiya, and their parallel searches for home. In twin narratives that unfold eight hundred years apart, Joukhadar captures the unrelenting courage of those who persist amid the trials of exile. A truly remarkable debut." Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take and Soy Sauce for Beginners
"E. M. Forster taught us that 'fiction is truer than history because it goes beyond the evidence.' Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar’s magic first novel is a testimony to that maxim. We’ve all been aware of the plight of Syrian refugees, but in this richly imaginative story we see one small family – both haunted by history and saved by myth – work their way west. It’s beautiful and lovely and eye-opening." Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and The Guest Room
"In Joukhadar’s intoxicating debut, the past and present are brought to life, illuminating how, in exile, neither can exist without the other. With clear, exquisite prose, Joukhadar unspools a brightly imagined tale of family and grief, mapmaking and migration. This important book is a love letter to the vanished — and to what remains." Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses
About the Author
Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian American author. Originally from New York City, Jennifer was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. She is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Saturday Evening Post, PANK Magazine, Mizna, and elsewhere. Jennifer is a 2017-2020 Montalvo Arts Center Lucas Artists Program Literary Arts Fellow and an alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net.