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I grew up in Oregon with an American(Scots-Irish/Norwegian) mother and an Arab (Palestinian-Israeli) father. So, while I wouldn't claim that my life has mirrored Diana Abu Jaber's background, I would say there are a lot of similarities.
Much of this book rings true. The overprotective father. Family grudges and gossip. Relatives crisscrossing the ocean. The audience for the "The Bold and the Beautiful" (an American soap opera) that you find in the Middle East. Immigrant parents who want all their children to become doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Taboos against dating. The expectations to marry someone who is also Arab, even if your own mother isn't. You get the idea.
One chapter that sticks out to me is "Immigrants' Kids". One part of it describes the nostalgia that a dish of stuffed cabbages (a popular arab dish) can bring. Reading it almost made me shed a tear because it reminded me that its been a long time since I've had stuffed cabbages.
Like Diana, I also had a father who wished to move the family back to the Middle East. Like her, I also fought with my dad over this happening. I admire her for writing about such a conflict because it can still be painfull for me to recall such old disagreements.
If there is a line that I felt summed up the book's theme it is when a friend of Diana's asks: "How come my father never cooked me any eggs?" Of course Diana's father has cooked her eggs and plenty more.
In my opinion, this is a book about family love. The kind of love that can sometimes be suffocating. The kind of love that can make you cry because of its sincerity.
So, go out and read "The Language of Baklava". I'm going to make some stuffed cabbage.
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