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Helene Wecker Books In Order

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Publication Order of The Golem and the Jinni Books

The Golem and the Jinni (2013)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Hidden Palace (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Helen Wecker is a historical fiction and fantasy author best known as the author of the “Golem and the Jinni” series of novels. She was born in Libertyville, Illinois and as a teen went to Carleton College in Minnesota for her bachelor’s in English degree. Once she graduated from college, she worked several communications and marketing jobs in Seattle and Minneapolis, before she decided to go back to writing fiction that had always been her first love. She also moved to New York and went to Columbia University to pursue an MFA in fiction. The Jewish author met her Syrian American husband and this provided much of the fodder for the stories in her novels. The immigrant experiences and mystical traditions between the two cultures offer unique perspectives that have made her work intriguing. Her work has been featured in “Joyland” the online magazine and she has read her short stories at the “Barbershop Reading” series in San Francisco and the “KGB Bar” in Manhattan. The Chicago born author now makes her home in New York, Seattle and San Francisco. “The Golem and the Jinni” her debut novel came out in 2013.

Wecker has always been writing short stories but “The Golem and the Jinni” was the first big project she ever worked on. Once she graduated from college, she found work in the corporate world but the urge to write would not let up even after spending seven years doing a corporate gig. At some point, Helen thought she would kick herself if she did not give it a fair shot and so she enrolled for an MFA at Columbia in New York. She was doing night classes for a start and soon had a collection of short stories about her husband’s family and her own. But given that she was too close to the material, she could not turn it into fiction as she always felt overpowered. However, a friend told her to embrace the sci-fi and fantasy she was always talking about. She had always thought of combining literary fiction with genre elements and once her friend told her this, everything crystallized. The premise for her debut started forming and she wrote what was initially a short story that she later expanded into a novel over seven years.

Since Helen Wecker was so new to fiction writing, she was intimidated by the huge number of golem and jinni story retellings in modern literature. As such, she made the decision to start from two divergent sources. These were the original old legends of the jinni and golem that she combined with pop culture icons such as Battle Star Galactica, Star Trek and Star Wars. In a way, Wecker felt as if her lead character was a combination of Star Trek’s Counselor Troi and Data, since he cannot understand people but can feel them. At the start of the writing process much of the novel was based on her character and that of her husband. Later on, she shed the connection and let the characters develop into who they wanted to be.

“The Golem and the Jinni” is the debut novel of the series by Helen Wecker that introduces Chava the Golem. He is a rabbi that has to deal with the flood of wishes that assault her consciousness from the thousands of people she meets every day. She also needs to keep her identity secret in addition to dealing with the fact that she can never sleep. This is very bizarre as it is not usual to see a young woman walking the night even if she has honorable intentions. Similar to other immigrants that came to the US before her, she seeks the help of prior arrivals. She gets a job at a bakery after learning to bake but since going out at night is out of the question, she spends her nights sewing. Meanwhile, Ahmad the Jinni has been apprenticed to the tinsmith once he realized that he was good at heating and molding metal into marvelous shapes with his bare hands. Ahmad too has a challenge of keeping his nature a secret though part of his nature is lustful. The Jinni has been taken by a young woman named Chava he encounters and unknowingly Chava too is taken by him. Over time the two become romantic partners and what follows are magical interactions between two people that are strangers in a strange land who become friends and then lovers.

Helen Wecker’s “The Hidden Palace” continues to follow the life and times of the golem Chava. She still hears the wishes and thoughts of people she meets and is compelled to help them given that it is in her nature. The free spirited and perpetually restless Jinni Ahmad is now a good friend and lover. The two fear that they will be exposed as magical beings and hence pretend to be humans even as they hide their true natures. They live as ordinary immigrants in the hustle and bustle of early eighteenth century New York. Their lives are now entwined even though they met under calamitous circumstances and do not know where their relationship is headed. Both of them have unwittingly affected the humans living around them. Sophia Winston who is a Park Avenue heiress has a strange illness that leaves her shivering ever since she had a brief encounter with the Jinni. She has now travelled to the Middle East where she believes he will find a cure. In New York, Kreindel a little girl form the Lower East Side tenements works with her father to build a golem. What she does not know is that the golem they are building will become her only protector and friend once she is sent to an orphanage in uptown New York. The story spans the years following the beginning of the twentieth century up to the early years of the First World War. It follows the different lives as they interweave and collide. The real question is can Ahmad and Chava find their place in the human world while retaining their true natures. Will their desire and opposing nature finally tear them apart?

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