The thirty names of night : a novel

by Joukhadar, Zeyn,

Format: Print Book 2020
Availability: Available at 10 Libraries 10 of 15 copies
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Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award--Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions , Electric Literature , and HuffPost

‚Äč The author of the "vivid and urgent...important and timely" ( The New York Times Book Review ) debut The Map of Salt and Stars returns with this remarkably moving and lyrical novel following three generations of Syrian Americans who are linked by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts.

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother's ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother's sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z's past is intimately tied to his mother's--and his grandmother's--in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z's story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn't and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare .

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother's ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar's signature "magical and heart-wrenching" ( The Christian Science Monitor ) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a timely exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Nadir, a trans Syrian American man, mourns his mother daily. He even sees her interacting with the world around him, like a ghost. During the day, Nadir cares for his grandmother. At night, he paints murals of birds across New York City, an homage to his ornithologist mother as well as to Laila Z, an artist his mother admired and whose journals Nadir pours over. Both Nadir and Laila Z's stories are told in the second person--Nadir to his mother, Laila Z's as letters to "B"--lending an extra intimacy to Joukhadar's stunning prose, which is already vivid, visceral, and urgent, as readers of The Map of Salt and Stars (2018) can attest. Nadir's journey probes into both the fleeting nature and permanent influence of art, while also exploring the human body as limitation--because Nadir is misgendered in the first part of the novel, yes, but also because he often longs to escape into something completely other, such as a flower or a bird. Ultimately, both Nadir and Laila Z learn how to make space for themselves in a world that tries to reject them, and that space allows their worlds to open up to even further possibilities. This clarifying and moving tale has far-reaching significance and appeal."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Joukhadar's evocative follow-up to The Map of Salt and Stars explores a 20-something Syrian-American trans man's journey of self-discovery. The unnamed protagonist--he later goes by the name he gives himself, Nadir--is an aspiring artist in Brooklyn who likes to go out dancing with friends and enjoys listening to his friend Sami play the oud. Nadir lives with his grandmother, Teta, and is haunted by the death of his mother years ago in a fire. After Nadir finds a diary belonging to a Syrian artist named Laila, in an old tenement inhabited by Syrian-Americans, he becomes obsessed with finding the print of a rare bird by Laila. As the story unfolds, Nadir's narration and direct addresses to his mother ("your presence is still here, everywhere, your hand on everything") expands to include Laila's voice ("The day I began to bleed was the day I met the woman who built the flying machine") as Nadir blossoms into his trans identity. Scenes with Sami, with whom Nadir falls in love, are particularly affecting. Quietly lyrical and richly imaginative, Joukhadar's tale shows how Laila and Nadir live and love and work past the shame in their lives through their art. This is a stirring portrait of an artist as a young man. (May)"
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Additional Information
Subjects Syrian Americans -- Fiction.
Transgender people -- Fiction.
Ghost stories.
Publisher New York :2020
Edition First Atria Books hardcover edition.
Language English
Description 291 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN 9781982121495
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