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Zeyn Joukhadar Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Map of Salt and Stars (2018)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Thirty Names of Night (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Zeyn Joukhadar
Zeyn Joukhadar is a literary fiction writer best known for his debut novel The Map of Salt and Stars. This novel, published in 2018, has already been translated into six languages and earned the author several awards. The New York-born author is recognized for his prose, depth, and unique stories. His second publication, The Thirty Names of Night, is already causing waves in the reading world, and it is clear that Joukhadar is doing what he was born to do. Joukhadar has also written for several publications, including PANK Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Kenyon Review.

The Map of Salt and Stars
The Map of Salt and Stars tells the story of two young girls, Nour and Rawiya, their life journeys, families, heartbreaks, and adventures. Nour lost her father to cancer in the summer of 2011. Her mother, a cartographer, known for her unique hand-painted maps, is left to care for her children alone. A short while after burying her husband, Nour’s mother decides to move the family from New York back to her home in Syria. Unfortunately, Nour’s mother country is nothing like it was when she left for America. Before they can even settle, protests arise, and Nour’s house is hit by a shell that completely destroys it and almost takes her mother’s life.
To escape the dangers in their new home, Nour, her sisters, and her mom are forced to flee from the middle east through North Africa. The family is forced to transverse seven countries as refugees in search of a safe home. Throughout the journey, Nour struggles to remember how home feels like in the midst of all the challenges they all have to overcome. Away from this story, the author introduces another girl who went through a similar experience 800 years prior.
Rawiya is sixteen when she decides to change her widowed and impoverished mother’s life. The teenage girl is also restless and curious to see the world. Rawiya sets on a journey to seek a fortune for her small family, but first, she disguises herself as a boy named Rami. She then accompanies al-Idrisi as his apprentice on a journey across the Middle East and North Africa. Al-Idris’s mission is to create a world man for King Roger II. As Al-Idrisi’s employee, Rawiya has to help him in all his duties, including fighting all the ferocious beasts they encounter along the way. These two also meet many historical figures along the way.

This book introduces the reader to varied North Africa and Middle East cultures. Nour and Rawiya follow similar journeys and undergo the same experiences. The author highlights the beautiful relationship Nour experienced with her father, just as Rawiya loved her mother. There are detailed descriptions of the places both girls visit, the things they see, and their feeling through it all.

The Map of Salt and Stars is a moving story of two young girls and their state of mind as they brave the unknown for the promise of a better life. This dual-story book covers adventure, light, war, darkness, and family in search of a home. The author will capture your attention from the first page, where she describes the symbolism of salt used in the title. This book comes with beautiful prose, human characters, and a profoundly touching storyline. The story is simple yet honest, and the characters will stay with you long after you have read the last page.

The Thirty Names of Night
The Thirty Names of Night tells the story of three generations of Syrian Americans linked to a mysterious bird. It has been five years since a trans boy lost his mother to a strange fire. The Boy, also a talented artist, has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost started to appear. In the meantime, the Boy is taking care of his grandmother as he tries to find the reason why his mother is appearing to him. The Boy spends most of his time cooped in their apartment, away from the neighborhood masjid, his sister, and the best friend he has a serious crush on. It is only when the Boy sneaks to paint murals that he feels free.

One night, the Boy enters an abandoned house only to find a tattered journal of Laila Z, a Syrian-American artist who also happened to be his mother’s role model. Laila had painted North America birds throughout her career until she disappeared mysteriously sixty years ago. This journal comes with proof that Laila Z, the Boy’s mother, and his grandmother are somehow linked. Laila also reveals the histories of transgender people in his community. It is this book that makes the Boy realize that he is not alone. He acquires a new name, Nadir, meaning rare, and completely embraces who he is.
New York City is experiencing a surge of mysterious birds, and Nadir is curious about them. With the help of friends, Nadir sets to find out what really happened to Laila and the bird his mother died attempting to save. The ghost of Nadir’s mother is an ever-present companion throughout this journey that leads him to secrets that his family has been forced to keep for their own survival.

This story is told by two alternating narrators. First, there is the young narrator who remains unnamed for the most part of the story. This narrator spends most of his time creating a mural in former Little Syria. Then there is Nadir, a contemporary artist mourning the loss of his mother. Through this story, the life of Laila Z, a talented Syrian immigrant, Nadir’s mother, and his grandmother are brought to life. The three main themes covered include gender and identity, the power of art, and the pure nature of love.

The Thirty Names of Night feels like walking through a diverse aviary. The central, overhead and peripheral imagery here is birds, and throughout the book, the author infuses birds through drawings, allusions, and paintings. Follow the author as he introduces three generations of Syria-Americans, the challenges they had to overcome, and their connection to a strange bird.

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