Virtual Event: Zaina Arafat
You Exist Too Much:
in conversation with TONY TULATHIMUTTE
July 17, 2020
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Free - $3 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and GrubStreet welcome debut author ZAINA ARAFAT for a discussion of her new novel You Exist Too Much. She will be joined in conversation by Whiting Award–winning novelist TONY TULATHIMUTTE, author of the celebrated novel Private Citizens.
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About You Exist Too Much
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.” In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love, and a place to call home.
Praise for You Exist Too Much
"You Exist Too Much gets desire at a deep level: where it comes from, how it pushes and tugs, and how it's virtually never just about who it's about. As the narrator pinballs from one disastrous affair to the next, we get more than the chronicle of a young full-blown love addict, but a keen study in how our wants are bound to place, race, gender, religion, psychology, and family. Zaina Arafat speaks for the persistently hungry." —Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
"Zaina Arafat has dreamed up a narrator who claws herself off the page in her aliveness, ripped between an insurmountable urge to chase desire and a longing for stability, cultural and familial acceptance, and lasting love. The result is an aching, deeply humane bildungsroman that superbly examines the gap between what we have and what we want." —Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This
"What a breath of fresh air! Zaina Arafat takes a familiar figure—the restless, womanizing narrator of many a canonical novel—and reimagines it to mordant and delightful effect. Her queer, Palestinian American, love-addict protagonist is pining mostly for a sense of belonging and purpose. She's a deeply relatable character who beautifully conveys the anguish of trying to figure out a life between categories of various kinds. You Exist Too Much is a moving, irreverent, darkly entertaining novel about the agony of family, the mysteries of romantic love, and the painful work of learning where we stop and others begin. Arafat is a true original." ―Nina Renata Aron, author of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls
Harvard Book Store's New Voices in Fiction series, presented with GrubStreet, highlights debut fiction writers discussing their work and the writing process.
GrubStreet is one of the nation's leading creative writing centers, offering 500+ classes a year in all genres, for writers of all levels. We believe that narrative transforms lives, builds bridges, and produces empathy. By rigorously developing voices of every type and talent and by removing barriers to entry, GrubStreet fosters the creation of meaningful stories and ensures that excellent writing remains vital and relevant. To learn more or find a class, visit grubstreet.org.
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