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Reviews of The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan

The Moon That Turns You Back

Poems

by Hala Alyan

The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan X
The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan
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  • Paperback:
    Mar 2024, 112 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of The Arsonists' City and The Twenty-Ninth Year, a new collection of poetry that traces the fragmentation of memory, archive, and family–past, present, future–in the face of displacement and war.

A diaspora of memories runs through this poetry collection—a multiplicity of voices, bodies, and houses hold archival material for one another, tracing paths between Brooklyn, Beirut, and Jerusalem. Boundaries and borders blur between space and time and poetic form—small banal moments of daily life live within geopolitical brutalities and, vice versa, the desire for stability lives in familiarity with displacement.

These poems take stock of who and what can displace you from home and from your own body—and, conversely, the kind of resilience, tenacity, and love that can bring you back into yourself and into the context of past and future generations. Hala Alyan asks, What stops you from transforming into someone or something else? When you have lived a life in flux, how do you find rest?

remains

my grandmother kept four tablecloths
in a cabinet the color of bones
in a city named after wells
which is where my mother calls country
which is where my mother calls me American
which is where we left that tablecloth
damask named after Damascus
which is where men steered their ships
which is where men bought silk
yards and rivers and wheels of it
which is where my grandmother was born
not Latakia which is where she lived
or Kuwait which is where she married
or Beirut which is where she is now bone

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The poignant, accessible poems in Palestinian American author Hala Alyan's fifth collection, The Moon that Turns You Back, emerge from a family history of Arab diaspora. Simultaneously tied to and cast out from the nations of the war-torn Middle East, generations of her family have been exiles. The poet describes her father as "unreturnable / one passport short of country / one country short of citizen." Readers new to poetry need not be wary; the book is led by its themes and features recognizable characters and events. A family memoir can be pieced together along the way, but the emotional territory is universal: health struggles, bereavement, homesickness, and coping with the tragic and unexpected...continued

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(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

BookPage
A bountiful collection of poetry...spellbinding...Hala Alyan renders rich, intricate landscapes of heritage and place.

Booklist (starred review)
[Hala] Alyan's fifth book of poetry grapples heroically with the fissures of family and lineage caused by displacement and migration.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The formally inventive and devastatingly evocative latest from Alyan (The Twenty-Ninth Year) reckons with grief, displacement, and enduring kinship. From Beirut to the U.S. to Jerusalem to Kuwait, Alyan draws from her experience as a Palestinian American to examine where one's home is under occupation and forced displacement...These powerful poems linger long in the mind.

Author Blurb Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders
Hala Alyan offers us a magnificent reckoning and witnessing. These poems are a dazzling achievement, singing of a body/bodies tethered to tenderness and hope, even in the face of landscapes that don't always offer '...good and patient soil.'

Author Blurb Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come For Us
Every line of Hala Alyan's The Moon That Turns You Back drips with intentional craft, with brilliance. Hala's ability to marry poetic experimentation with the deep tenderness of living makes these poems urgent, necessary, and loving. I feel honored to be alive in a time where I can read Hala Alyan, where I can devour book after book, where I can bask in her gorgeous heart. This book is a gift, those of us who encounter it should consider ourselves lucky.

Author Blurb Safia Elhillo, author of Girls That Never Die
I will read anything Hala Alyan writes, knowing always that time spent in the company of her work makes me a better reader, a better writer, a more empathetic creature. Here is a writer who wields simultaneity to fascinating, beautiful effect: poems that are simultaneously stark and lush, blunt and experimental, crackling with tension, with tenderness. The poems in The Moon That Turns You Back are some of my favorite work by one of my favorite poets. I hope to spend a long lifetime with this book.

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Beyond the Book

A Reading List of Palestinian American Literature

Palestinian American author book jacketsHala Alyan, author of the poetry collection The Moon That Turns You Back, has also published two novels: Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award; and The Arsonists' City.

Her work is part of a flourishing Palestinian American literary scene. For a further taste of poetry, one might try Remi Kanazi, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Naomi Shihab Nye, or Fady Joudah, who just won the Jackson Poetry Prize. Nonfiction authors include Muslim astronomer Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, and political and cultural thinkers Ali Abunimah, the late Edward Said, and Steven Salaita. Ibtisam Barakat's Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood (2007), won an Arab American Book Award in the Children/Young Adult Category. Homeland: My...

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