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Review and First Book 2024: Evil Eye by Etaf Rum

Title: Evil Eye

Author: Etaf Rum
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)USA (NY, NC), Palestine

SummaryAfter Yara is placed on probation at work for fighting with a racist coworker, her Palestinian mother claims the provocation and all that’s come after were the result of a family curse. While Yara doesn’t believe in old superstitions, she finds herself unpacking her strict, often volatile childhood growing up in Brooklyn, looking for clues as to why she feels so unfulfilled in a life her mother could only dream of.

Etaf Rum’s follow-up to her 2019 debut, A Woman Is No Man, is a complicated mother-daughter drama that looks at the lasting effects of intergenerational trauma and what it takes to break the cycle of abuse.

Review: I enjoy doing First Book with Sheila at Book Journey as part of the larger blogging community. And, this book seemed like a good one, especially given world events (the author is Palestinian).

What a wonderful way to begin my reading year! This book is insightful and carried me along from the start. Yara is struggling with self doubt and depression, which are difficult to read about, but she is also working her way through it, learning how to love, to trust, and to mother.

Yara believes that everything bad around her is her fault: her parents' marriage, her inattentive husband, he feelings of despair. How does one ensure that one's upbringing and culture don't get in the way of feeling good, of taking care of one's self. I see this not as an Arab thing (remember, I was married to an Arab man), but a female thing. Many of us are conditioned to make others happy (partners, children, parents) at the expense of our own needs/desires. 

Rum does a wonderful job of showing the pain, the struggle, the help of therapy, and the self-realization of her character and many readers will be able to relate. I also enjoyed the food in this book. Middle Eastern food is one of my favorites so the flavors, the spcies, and aromas throughout the book really appealed to me. In fact, I think I'll make Ouzi Rice and lentils for dinner.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--New York, North Carolina, and Palestine
  • Alphabet (Author)--R
  • Alphabet (Title)--E
  • Decolonize--about food by a BIPOC author AND fiction by a West Asian author
  • Bookish--many chapters are the journal that the main character writes

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