The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber
A Memoir

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Synopsis

From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called “radiant, wise, and passionate” by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals in turn illuminate the two cultures of Diana’s childhood–American and Jordanian–and the
richness and difficulty of straddling both. They also bring her wonderfully eccentric family to life, most memorably her imperious American grandmother and her impractical, hotheaded, displaced immigrant father, who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children.

As she does in her fiction, Diana draws us in with her exquisite insight and compassion, and with her amazing talent for describing food and the myriad pleasures and adventures associated with cooking and eating. Each chapter contains mouthwatering recipes for many of the dishes described, from her Middle Eastern grandmother’s Mad Genius Knaffea to her American grandmother’s Easy Roast Beef, to her aunt Aya’s Poetic Baklava. The Language of Baklava gives us the chance not only to grow up alongside Diana, but also to share meals with her every step of the way–unforgettable feasts that teach her, and us, as much about iden-tity, love, and family as they do about food.
 

About Diana Abu-Jaber

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Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of Crescent, which was awarded the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction and the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award and was named one of the twenty best novels of 2003 by The Christian Science Monitor, and Arabian Jazz, which won the 1994 Oregon Book Award and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award. She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami.
 
Published March 15, 2005 by Pantheon. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Language of Baklava

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Abu-Jaber’s tales are equally powerful and lovely in their imagery, from the faux pas of barbequing in their front yard in the US to the car ride they take late at night, to the Dead Sea, where the road is “dusty blue and smells like the woolly heat of a sheep’s back.” Food as a way to remember o...

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Publishers Weekly

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Abu-Jaber's father, who periodically uprooted his American family to transplant them back in Jordan, was always cooking.

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Entertainment Weekly

Whether she's freezing on her family's front lawn in upstate New York as they grill kebabs to celebrate the first warmish day of the year, or battling with her father over his banishment of a suitor (''Why didn't you just lock me into some prison in Jordan when you had the chance?'' His respo...

Mar 21 2005 | Read Full Review of The Language of Baklava: A Me...

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