The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be You Exist Too Much, the powerful debut novel by Zaina Arafat. The book will be released on 19 November and Zaina will be on the show on Monday 30 November.
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You Exist Too Much
A novel of self-discovery following a Palestinian-American girl as she navigates queerness, love addiction and a series of tumultuous relationships.
Told in vignettes that flash between the US and the Middle East, the novel traces the protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to creative and confused adulthood.
In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. Soon, her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people which results in her seeking unconventional help to face her past traumas and current demons.
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings – for love, and a place to call home.
Selection panel review
The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved You Exist Too Much – here are some of their comments:
“Reading the premise of this story was really exciting; a coming of age story about a non-hetero BAME character! Woo hoo! Told in first person, the main character is unnamed but you know she is Palestinian-American and bisexual. The story tells in raw detail her damaged relationship with her parents, her lovers, her friends but most of all herself. This self-hate results in her developing a ‘love-addiction’, unhealthy obsessions and generally treating the people around her very badly – but told through the skewed lens of her own perspective it becomes darkly humorous at time and by the end I started to like the character very much. It’s only a short novel at around 250 pages and reads like an in-depth character study. I, at times, found the character’s actions painful to read and she made some very bad decisions and the narrative is a way to explore why she does the things she does and sometimes has no control over her actions. The lack or ambivalence of cultural identity is very interesting too and something highly topical and ripe for discussion. An excellent read.”
“This is such a powerful novel about identity and belonging, and explores what happens when these are lost in childhood, leading to a life of striving to discover who you are. Beautifully written, and painfully well-observed in places. A treat of a book.”
About the author
Zaina Arafat is a Palestinian-American writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including the New York Times, Granta, The Believer, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, VICE and NPR. She holds an MA in international affairs from Columbia University, an MFA from the University of Iowa and is a recipient of the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She grew up between the US and the Middle East and currently lives in Brooklyn.
A word from Zaina
“I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured that You Exist Too Much been chosen by BBC Radio 2 Book Club. I’m especially grateful that the book has connected with librarians and The Reading Agency—thank you for reading and recommending it. Libraries have done so much towards cultivating my love of books and shaping my identity as a writer; as I kid I would walk into my local library and immediately cry for fear that I would never have enough time to read all the books I wanted to read, even as I spent hours tucked away in the stacks, engrossed in literature.
I’m excited for this opportunity to connect with readers who also embody overlapping and often contradictory identities, as so many of us do. This is my debut novel and it’s very close to my heart. This protagonist is complicated, psychologically and culturally nuanced and deep, and I’m excited for this opportunity to connect with readers who also embody overlapping and often contradictory identities, as so many of us do. I look forward to plumbing the depths of her patterns and behaviour, along with the central relationships in the novel, ones that may feel all-too-familiar to many of us.”
Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 30 November to hear a live interview with Zaina.
Planning to buy You Exist Too Much for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.