“Zaina Arafat’s You Exist Too Much is one of my favorite books of the year. This debut novel blew me away. Arafat’s narrator is confident in her vulnerability; her desire to be seen and understood is visceral and uncomfortably familiar. The intoxication of unrequited love and the disconcerting feeling that can accompany settling down are recognizable, yet in Arafat’s capable hands, I was transported. This book is for anyone who has struggled to fit into society’s neat boxes, who has been frustrated when emotions don’t follow a logical path, or who has been disappointed to find that sometimes the love of others isn’t enough.”
— Margaret Leonard, Dotters Books, Eau Claire, WI
A "provocative and seductive debut" of desire and doubleness that follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she tries to lead an authentic life (O, The Oprah Magazine)
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother's response only intensifies a sense of shame: "You exist too much," she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East--from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine--Zaina Arafat's debut novel traces her protagonist's progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as "love addiction." In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.
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.
About the Author
Zaina Arafat is a LGBTQ Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, You Exist Too Much, was selected as an Indie Next Pick for June, and has been praised by O Oprah Magazine, Vogue,Elle,Harper's Bazaar, NPR, LitHub and Good Morning America. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including Granta,The New York Times, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, VICE, BuzzFeed, Guernica and The Atlantic. She holds an MFA from Iowa and an MA from Columbia, and was awarded the 2018 Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship from Jack Jones Literary Arts. She teaches writing at Long Island University and the School of the New York Times, and is currently working on an essay collection.
"Thankfully we have moved beyond tedious questions about the 'likability' of fictional women, because the most interesting characters rarely are at all times. Arafat's heroine is no exception, but the author writes her with great tenderness and just enough self-aware dark humor to allow readers to become invested in this young woman's efforts to make herself whole." —Erin Keane, Salon
"At once complicated and engaging, this is the kind of debut novel that announces the arrival of a powerful new author who, besides writing beautifully, has a lot to say." —Gabino Iglesias, NPR
"This story about love, identity, gender and family is brilliantly written and questions the effects of maternal love." —Good Morning America