cover image Between Two Moons

Between Two Moons

Aisha Abdel Gawad. Doubleday, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54861-8

A young Muslim woman comes of age in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, during a period of heightened anti-Arab prejudice in Gawad’s astonishing debut. The story unspools in 2014 on the cusp of Ramadan, as college-bound 17-year-old Amira Emam contends with a series of ruptures in her family life. Her “party girl” twin sister, Lina, frequents a local nightclub with her boyfriend and often calls Amira in the middle of the night for rides home from, among other spots, a seedy motel in New Jersey. The twins’ older brother, Sami, meanwhile, returns after a six-year prison sentence for a drug-related conviction, and she worries his return will affect the family’s equilibrium. After a police raid on a local café, the neighborhood wonders why its proprietor, Abu Jamal, was arrested, and tensions intensify when a mosque is vandalized and an 80-year-old imam is attacked. Then Sami begins meeting with various Muslim community members, and his reasons for doing so lead to a surprising twist. At a protest against Jamal’s detention, Amira meets Faraj, a college student and fellow Muslim, and she keeps their budding relationship hidden, feeling caught between her siblings, the “two moons” of the title. When the nature of Sami’s rendezvous is revealed, the fractured family becomes closer. The author does a knockout job developing the characters, and is especially convincing in conveying Amira’s conflicted feelings about Sami’s return and sketching the contours of the close-knit neighborhood (“The approaching dawn spread like a great massive bruise over New York”). This is a winner. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME. (June)