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Zaina Arafat Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

You Exist Too Much (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Zaina Arafat is a Palestinian-American author, journalist, and teacher from New York City. Her fiction and nonfiction works have been featured in the likes of NPR, The New York Times, VICE, Granta, BuzzFeed, The Believer, The Christian Science Monitor, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post among many other publications. For her works, she won the Middle East Fellowship for Migrants/Arab Woman at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She has also taught creative writing at Sackett Street Writers, Catapult, The School of the New York Times, and the University of Iowa in addition to several institutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Arafat has also conducted several workshops for Muslim and DACA recipients through the Writer’s Guild Initiative. She has an M.A from Columbia University and an MFA from Iowa. She grew up shuttling between the Middle East and the United States but currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

While she was growing up Zaina never believed that she would one day come to be a renowned fiction author. She lived in a politically charged part of Washington and believed that her destiny was to be an international reporter. Moreover, given her roots in a part of the world that has so many stories and contention, the thought of telling creative and imaginative stories never crossed her mind as she was more inclined to reporting real stories. Once she was done with high school, she got her bachelor’s in Philosophy and Foreign Affairs and then attended Columbia for her MA in International Media and Communications. She then went on to write long-form pieces set in locations such as Israel, Jordan, Beirut, and Palestine that were published in the likes of Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and NPR. It was at this time that she started undergoing a metamorphosis as her pieces turned into personal essays that surprisingly resonated with readers. With the good reception towards her creative writing, she enrolled for a Memoir class at Gotham where she studied under Shahnaz Habib. During this time, she had also applied at the University of Iowa and decided to do both programs.

It was at Iowa that Zaina Arafat first got interested in fiction writing as she says it allowed her to take almost every situation including fantasy and bring it to life. Her first piece of writing was about an affair that she asserts she found incredibly liberating and fun. Arafat now prefers to write fiction since it is less scary and intimate. However, she said that success is all about persisting and passion rather than chance happenings. Today Arafat still writes fiction and nonfiction pieces and is a professor of fiction at Gotham. She still travels a lot when she gets the chance though she does it out of curiosity or necessity. It is from these experiences that she then writes her novels. “You Exist Too Much” her debut novel is a hybrid work that features as the lead a Palestinian American woman. She is struggling with bisexuality, addiction, and love in the backdrop of her Arab Muslim heritage and culture. According to Zaina, much of the novel is a memoir with a significant portion being total fiction. In this combination, she has managed to create a new genre that blurs the boundaries between nonfiction and fiction.

Zaina Arafat’s debut “You Exist Too Much” is set in the West Bank, in the town of Bethlehem on a hot summer day. The lead is a 12-year-old American-Palestinian girl who was passing by the Church of Nativity when she is yelled at by a group of men. Her crime was exposing her legs in a sacred city and from then on the judgment would define her adolescence. When she finally comes out as gay to her mother a few years later, her response of “You exist too much” shames her even further. The novel is told in several vignettes from Palestine to New York, Lebanon to Jordan. “You Exist Too Much” traces Zaina Arafat’s as she goes from blushing teen to become an aspiring author and sought after DJ in New York. In her Brooklyn apartment, she gets into her first serious relationship but her longings that had been kept in check during her younger years explode into the open. Her obsession and reckless romantic escapades soon become destructive until she ends up diagnosed with love addiction by an unconventional treatment center known as “The Ledge.” In the strange and enclosed environment of a treatment center, she begins analyzing the discomforting similarities between the places that have made her who she is and the divisions and internal traumas she has to deal with every day. The story tells of the desires and fantasies of a young woman who is caught between the religious, cultural and sexual identities as she tries to find identity, love and a place that she can call home.

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