Monday, February 15, 2021

Staff Picks: The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

The Thirty Names of Night
by Zeyn Joukhadar

As so often happens, the cover grabbed my attention first. It shows an intricate watercolor bird wing and, throughout the story, there is an elusive artist of birds, Laila Z. The story alternates between the current and past lives of a Syrian-American family. Family and friends are still grieving over the tragic loss of the mother, and her child comes to grips with their identity without her. This personal crisis propels the story forward as details of the mother's life and, inadvertently, the grandmother's, are unveiled.

The family immigrated to the United States, to New York City, long before the current struggles. The story immerses you in the immigrant neighborhood - the foods, smells, and closeness of the community. The author highlights the struggles of new citizens just trying to get by and the challenges they face as they adapt to their new country.

Birds are constantly mentioned from an artistic standpoint, but also from an allegorical standpoint. This comes from an ancient Iranian poem, entitled Conference of Birds, and helps tie the different strands of the story together in the end. I would recommend the title to those who enjoy culturally diverse reads, immigrant stories, and an inspirational story of being who you are and being accepted as such.

As the publisher states, "The Thirty Names of Night is an imaginative and intimate exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are."

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