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Summary and book reviews of Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

Crescent

by Diana Abu-Jaber

Crescent
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2003, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2004, 368 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

Written in a lush, lyrical style, infused with the flavors and scents of Middle Eastern food, and spiced with history and fable, Crescent is a sensuous love story and a gripping tale of risk and commitment.  The reading guide includes a number of recipes to share with friends and family!

An Arab-American novel as delicious as Like Water for Chocolate.

Praised by critics from The New Yorker to USA Today for her first novel, Arabian Jazz ("an oracular tale that unfurls like gossamer"), Diana Abu-Jaber weaves with spellbinding magic a multidimensional love story set in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles.

Thirty-nine-year-old Sirine, never married, lives with a devoted Iraqi-immigrant uncle and an adoring dog named King Babar. She works as a chef in a Lebanese restaurant, her passions aroused only by the preparation of food—until an unbearably handsome Arabic literature professor starts dropping by for a little home cooking. Falling in love brings Sirene's whole heart to a boil—stirring up memories of her parents and questions about her identity as an Arab American.

Written in a lush, lyrical style reminiscent of The God of Small Things, infused with the flavors and scents of Middle Eastern food, and spiced with history and fable, Crescent is a sensuous love story and a gripping tale of risk and commitment.

CHAPTER ONE

The sky is white.

The sky shouldn't be white because it's after midnight and the moon has not yet appeared and nothing is as black and as ancient as the night in Baghdad. It is dark and fragrant as the hanging gardens of the extinct city of Chaldea, as dark and still as the night in the uppermost chamber of the spiraling Tower of Babel.

But it's white because white is the color of an exploding rocket. The ones that come from over the river, across the fields, from the other side of an invisible border, from another ancient country called Iran. The rockets are so close sometimes he can hear the warning whisk before they explode. The ones that explode in the sky send off big round blooms of colors, pinwheels of fire. But the ones that explode on the ground erase everything: they send out streamers of fire that race across the ground like electric snakes; they light up the donkeys by the water troughs and make their shadows a hundred meters long. They ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Discussion Questions & Recipes to Share With Your Book Club!

Discussion Questions

  1. Most love stories cast very young women as the "love interest," or else they feature older married women looking for an escape. The protagonist of Crescent, Sirine, is thirty-nine and unmarried. Do you think the author chose this age and situation deliberately? Why? Did it surprise you? What does it imply for the rest of the story?

  2. Could you tell, from the way this love story unfolds, t
    hat the author is a woman?

  3. What is the purpose of the tale that Sirine's uncle tells? Did you find it a distraction or did it help to inform the rest of the story? What do the tales of Abdelrahman Salahadin's several different slaveries and "drownings" mean or ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Orlando Sentinel

A pleasing hybrid of Like Water for Chocolate and Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

The Baltimore Sun - John Muncie

Crescent is a rich, delicious concoction that has you rooting for the star-crossed lovers.

Chicago Tribune - Beth Kephart

Radiant, wise and passionate ... a book written by an author who never for an instant relinquished her grip on this willingly enchanted reader.

Oregonian - Andrea Spencer

[A] lovely tale ... an urgent mix of Scheherazade-style storytelling and treatise on the loneliness of exile.

Vanity Fair

A deliciously romantic romp.

San Francisco Chronicle

Abu-Jaber's voluptuous prose features insights into the Arab-American community that are wisely, warmly depicted.

Christian Science Monitor

Exquisite ... Readers stuffed on headlines but still hungering for something relevant will enjoy this rich meal.

Library Journal

Wise, spirited, and evocative, this work offers an ardent look at the human side of political cant.

Publishers Weekly

[A] beautifully imagined and timely novel.

Booklist

Starred Review. Abu-Jaber's language is miraculous ... It is not possible to stop reading.

Kirkus Reviews

A powerful story about the loneliness of exile and the limits of love. An impressive second outing by Abu-Jaber.

Author Blurb Sigrid Nunez
It is a story about how to cook and how to eat, and how to live in the new country. And, like all good novels, it is about how to tell a story.

Author Blurb Connie May Fowler
Lush, poignant, and searing ... unfolds with all the startling beauty of a hidden garden.

Author Blurb Sena Jeter Naslund
Abu-Jaber affirms the precious fragility of life, love, family, and the human community in meaningful ways.

Author Blurb Naomi Shihab Nye
Abu-Jaber is a high-spirited, magnificently graceful storyteller, a poet of deliciously fluted fiction, character, and culture.

Author Blurb Whitney Otto
Romantic, whimsical and wonderful in every way, being both sensuous and smart. I want to hang out all day at Nadia's Cafe.

Reader Reviews

FRED

Every word and image earns its place in this intelligent and affecting novel by Diana Abu-Jaber. A must-read.

Josh Graham

Middle Eastern culture shining through at its fullest.

Sarah W.

A love story within another culture
I gave this book three stars because I liked the descriptive talents on display here. The author describes food and the preparation of it in such lyrical terms I could almost see myself in Sirine's kitchen workplace, ministering to customers and ...   Read More

a wise reader

poor choice for college course credit
I was excited to get started on this book for my college course. We were studying different types of literature-this was a required read and we were to write a paper on it. The paper required us to read the whole book.I would have put it down if I ...   Read More

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