The Thirty Names of Night

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ERIC'S JANUARY BOOK CLUB SELECTION

I am so excited to kick off 2024 with this Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award winning book, The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar.

It follows a closeted Syrian American trans artist in New York, five years after his mother was killed in a suspicious fire. By day he is the sole caretaker for his grandmother, but at night he comes alive painting murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria. When he comes across the journal of a Syrian American artist who disappeared sixty years ago, he discovers an interwoven past between the artist and his family, and uncovers the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community.

Following the success of his debut novel, A Map of Salt and Stars, Joukhadar gives voice to multiple generations living the Arab immigrant experience, to queer voices, and to the power of names in The Thirty Names of Night. It’s been described as “equal parts historical fiction, ghost story, and an account of the obsessive search for rare birds that only birders can fully appreciate.” 

It’s a gorgeous story of courage, survival, and self-acceptance that’s full of suspense. Looking forward to hearing what you think!  

xo Eric

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Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction
Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award--Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions, Electric Literature, and HuffPost

From the award-winning author of The Map of Salt and Stars, a new novel about three generations of Syrian Americans haunted by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts--a "vivid exploration of loss, art, queer and trans communities, and the persistence of history. Often tender, always engrossing, The Thirty Names of Night is a feat" (R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries).

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. As his grandmother's sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria, but he's been struggling ever since his mother's ghost began visiting him each evening.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting birds. She mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z's past is intimately tied to his mother's in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z's story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn't and has never been alone, he has the courage to claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother's ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar's signature "folkloric, lyrical, and emotionally intense...gorgeous and alive" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a "stunning...vivid, visceral, and urgent" (Booklist, starred review) exploration of loss, memory, migration, and identity.

About the Author

Zeyn Joukhadar is the author of The Map of Salt and Stars and The Thirty Names of Night. He is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Joukhadar's writing has appeared in Salon, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. The Map of Salt and Stars was a 2018 Middle East Book Award winner in Youth Literature, a 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist in Historical Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. He has received fellowships from the Montalvo Arts Center, the Arab American National Museum, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Camargo Foundation, and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

"With tinges of magic realism and beautifully rendered descriptions of birds flitting in and out of characters' lives...The Thirty Names of Night stands out for its lyrical quality."-- "The New York Times Book Review"

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pub date:
Length:
320 pages
Format: Paperback