cover image Medusa of the Roses

Medusa of the Roses

Navid Sinaki. Grove, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6303-5

Video artist Sinaki’s stunning debut follows two gay lovers struggling to survive in modern-day Tehran. Anjir and Zal’s passionate but tumultuous relationship is threatened by the government’s criminalization of homosexuality and by Zal’s marriage to a wealthy woman, Mahtob. After Zal is savagely beaten by passersby who see him with a younger man, Anjir, despite being heartbroken by Zal’s betrayal, remains committed to the pair’s plan to leave Tehran for Isfahan, where they will live openly as man and woman after Anjir undergoes a sex-reassignment surgery. Then Zal disappears, and Anjir grows obsessed with finding Zal’s mysterious young lover. After tracking the man down, Anjir breaks into his apartment, even as he battles the ominous sensation that someone is watching his every move. Eventually, Anjir turns to Mahtob for information, and she counters with a dangerous proposal that tests the lengths Anjir will go to secure his and Zal’s freedom. In alternately gritty and sensual prose, Sinaki perfectly captures Anjir’s morbid state of mind and his inability to separate love from pain. The narrative teems with references to Greek mythology, Persian folktales, and Old Hollywood as Sinaki considers the psychological toll that living under an ever-present threat of death can take. This is a must. Agent: Mariah Stovall, Trellis Literary. (Aug.)