cover image You Exist Too Much

You Exist Too Much

Zaina Arafat. Catapult, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-948226-50-9

Arafat’s poignant if uneven debut explores the love affairs and relationships of its narrator, a queer Palestinian woman. Arafat opens with the unnamed narrator in a relationship with a woman named Anna in Brooklyn. When the narrator’s mother visits, it becomes clear that she disapproves of her daughter’s sexuality, refusing to even entertain the idea of her being in a relationship with a woman. After Anna discovers sexually charged emails between the narrator and a former professor, along with other evidence that she’s been cheated on, Anna leaves. Spiraling in the wake of Anna’s departure, the narrator checks herself into rehab for love addiction. The narrative follows the narrator through rehab, then on to grad school in the Midwest, and a move back to New York, as she picks up and discards lovers along the way. Woven throughout are stories of childhood summers spent in Jordan, a semester in Italy after falling out with her college roommate/secret-lover, and, most crucially, the narrator’s beautiful, mercurial, and perpetually dissatisfied mother, whose approval and attention are what the narrator most desires. Despite the rushed final third, Arafat writes movingly of being caught between identities, homelands, and obligation and desire. This difficult but heartfelt wonder delivers an emotional wallop. (June)