Debut collection from the award-winning author of A Map of Home (2008).
“The Lunatics’ Eclipse” is a fable about a girl who wants the moon and a boy who builds a rocket. “How Can I Be of Use to You?” is a sly interrogation of the ways in which women are exploited, particularly by each other. “Lost in Freakin’ Yonkers” is a desperate, foulmouthed rant by a young Egyptian-American woman pregnant with a drunk loser’s baby. These stories are set in locations geographically as disparate as Cairo and Paramus, New Jersey. “A Sailor” is a carefully controlled exercise in very short fiction, while “Grace” is a weird tale that gets a bit Borges-ian toward the end. Many of the stories gathered here have been published already—some more than once—in a range of literary journals, including such prestigious outlets as Ploughshares and Guernica. This variety is impressive, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a satisfying reading experience. Taken as a whole, these stories feel like a series of experiments—or assignments—consistent only insofar as they share a certain superficiality. Jarrar lived in Kuwait and Egypt before moving to the U.S. as a teenager, and much of her work turns on a clash of cultures. Unfortunately, in most instances, this dynamic dichotomy is the whole story. An author is not obligated to resolve the conflicts she sets up, but Jarrar seldom sticks around long enough to explore the results of the conditions she creates. In this regard, most of these stories seem unfinished. “Building Girls” is an exception. This is a subtle interrogation of class spanning multiple generations and an exploration of desire enlivened by a dash of magical realism.
A record of an author finding her voice.