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Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Map of Salt and Stars (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Thirty Names of Night (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

Everything Blooms (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Fit for the Gods(2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian American author that is best known for ‘The Map of Salt and Stars’. Joukhadar writes stories that bring attention to the plight of Arabs and Muslims.

It is possible that you have come across Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar’s work but you never knew it. Before gaining renown for her first novel, Joukhadar wrote a lot of articles, essays, and short stories, with her literary efforts appearing in publications like ‘The Kenyon Review’ and ‘Gulf Stream Literary Magazine’.

She even got a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2017. However, for the longest time, Joukhadar published all her works under her married name, ‘Jennifer Zeynab Maccani’.

But after attaching the name to quite a few short stories, Joukhadar came to the conclusion that she needed people to embrace her primarily as a Syrian author. So she changed her author name and even the name on her social media accounts to Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, which was what her parents had christened her.

‘Joukhadar’, according to the author, is an accurate representation of her origins. And when she would dream of writing novels as a child, ‘Joukhadar’ was the name she saw printed on the book covers.

Even though she eventually embraced writing with considerable fervor, Joukhadar initially sought her fortunes outside the publishing arena. In fact, 2013 found the author completing her studies at Brown University from where she got her Ph.D. in Medical Sciences.

And if the achievement wasn’t enough to cement the author’s dedication to the science arena, she also proceeded to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship for two years.

And yet she somehow circled back to writing. Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar fell in love with the activity when she was just a child. She cannot remember a time in her life when she did not write.

And even her pathobiology studies at Brown University could not keep her from dipping her toes into the habit from time to time. People think that the author had to undertake a significant shift in her life to write her first novel.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even when she had a full-time job, Joukhadar always secured moments in her schedule within which she could write. In deciding to abandon Academic Research Science, the author was merely choosing to dedicate more of her time to a habit with which she was already experimenting.

For a little while, Joukhadar found that her academic work and even her job were integral parts of her writing lifestyle. The people she met and the experiences she encountered, they all fed her writing efforts, keeping her imagination fertile.

But after a while, it became clear to Joukhadar that she would have to choose a lane upon which she could pour all her energies. Writing won out. The decision paid off.

Even though she had attracted some interest prior to the publication of her debut novel, it wasn’t until ‘The Map of Salt and Stars’ reached bookstores that the author’s fame began to truly grow.

The novel tells the story of two girls, a modern-day Syrian refugee called Nour and a legendary mapmaker from medieval times.

‘The Map of Salt and Stars’ was compared to ‘The Kite Runner’ when it first came out. ‘The Kite Runner’ was revolutionary because it exposed Western readers to the people of Afghanistan for the very first time.

Critics praised ‘The Map of Salt and Stars’ for doing the same thing for Syrian refugees. It wasn’t a coincidence on Joukhadar’s part that her novel happened to reach her publisher at a time when the Syrian refugee crisis had reached a fever pitch.

The author saw her book as a doorway through which people could better understand the plight of Syrian refugees. She admitted that she had never experienced the horrors Syria’s population was suffering at the time her novel was published.

So she did not write ‘The Map of Salt and Stars’ from an experiential point of view. That being said, Joukhadar had experienced those emotions of love and loss and suffering and despair on numerous occasions, and she could empathize with characters like Nour to the point of reproducing on paper the raw anguish that dogged the men and women, boys and girls who were forced to abandon their homes at the height of the Syrian Civil War.

Joukhadar used her empathy to envision the suffering of the Syrian Refugees and it was this same empathy that she hoped to ignite in her readers.

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar believes that representation is important in literature. She makes an effort to feature strong female Muslim characters in her books to show Western audiences that they can be strong and firm and independent.

+The Map of Salt and Stars
When Nour’s father dies from cancer in 2011, her mother, an unusual cartographer that creates strange hand-painted maps, moves the family from New York City to Syria.

Nour’s mother wanted her daughter to reconnect with their extended family. But then change came. Protests broke out, tanks rolled onto the streets and the worst came to pass.

The family home was eventually destroyed in an explosion, forcing Nour and her loved ones to undertake a harrowing journey across the Middle East.

Eight Centuries earlier, another young girl faced an equally challenging journey. At 16, Rawiya decided that she would go out and see the world, not only to help her impoverished mother survive but also because she desired adventure.

So Rawiya made herself look like a boy and convinced a mapmaker named al-Idrisi to take her on as an apprentice, the same mapmaker the King of Sicily had tasked with creating a map of the world. Rawiya did not know it yet but she was about to trek across the Middle East on an epic journey that would throw her into conflict with mythical beasts and historical figures.

+Everything Blooms
This novella takes readers to a small town in rural Pennsylvania. There, an old man who can barely see without his glasses is minding his own business, running his record shop when a young boy walks in one random day.

Nagib, the boy, just lost his father, a man who told him that Basim, the old man, was the only other Syrian in the country. Basim doesn’t know what to make of the claim because he never knew the boy’s father.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

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