Rare Bird of Little Syria
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Published in: July-August 2020 issue.


The Thirty Names of Night
by Zeyn Joukhadar
Atria Books. 304 pages, $27.



THE QUEST to discover one’s true identity is a central theme in much of world literature. Zeyn Joukha-dar’s new novel, The Thirty Names of Night, explores this issue from a multiplicity of angles. Indeed, if James Joyce’s mission was “to forge in the smithy of [his]soul the uncreated conscience of his race,” Joukhadar’s mission seems to be to detail not only his own trans journey, and his grandmother’s unconventional relationship, but also, in the process, to detail three generations of Syrian-American experiences in America.

            The novel begins with a narrator addressing an absent mother as “you,” a device that occasionally creates confusion, especially in a novel in which the pronouns are unconventional, meaning there is more than one “you” and also a “they.”

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Dale Boyer is the author ofThe Dandelion Cloud, Thornton Stories, and Justin & the Magic Stone.



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