This memoir by one of my favorite fiction authors is a heartfelt homage to two of the people most influential in her life, her Jordanian father and her Southern grandmother. Diana lost both of them in recent years, but she focuses on their life force, their feuds, their passions, and their meaning in her own life. This is also Diana’s story of deciding to be a mother and her adoption of the baby girl who bears her grandmother’s name, Grace. Diana’s writing is always both lively and insightful. Food is usually somewhere in the mix too. And the language is luscious.— Deon Stonehouse
Diana is one of my favorite authors, she has the gift of being able to create stories that focus on serious issues while also giving the reader memorable characters all told with wit and a dose of humor to entertain as well as enlighten. In her memoir she uses those gifts to tell the story of her family, paying homage to two of the people most influential in her life, her Jordanian father and her Southern grandmother. Both instilled a love of good stories and an appreciation for cooking. Anyone who enjoys cooking will relish the descriptions of young Diana with her Grandmother Grace baking pastry, or her Father cooking meals redolent of his Jordanian heritage. They each loved her fiercely, their passions fired through their different backgrounds and cultures made them opponents in the battle for Diana’s regard. Each wanted what is best and each had a very different opinion of what that might be. Diana lost both of them in recent years; here she focuses on their life force, their joys, triumphs and loss along with their meaning in her own life. This is also Diana’s story of deciding to be a mother and her adoption of the baby girl who bears her grandmother’s name, Grace. Adoption is not necessarily an easy process, Diana is open in describing her fears about becoming a parent and the tumultuous day that ultimately resulted in the arrival of a beautiful baby girl. Diana’s writing is always both lively and insightful. Read her memoir and be entertained, learn a bit more about this very gifted author. Her prior works of fiction are excellent. Their settings range from California to Iraq to New York and Miami. All are written with lively prose, interesting characters, and clever plots.— Deon Stonehouse
May 2016 Indie Next List
“Is it any wonder that memoir is the richest genre? The stories we live are far more fanciful, heartbreaking, and ridiculous than the ones we create with our imaginations. We have no control over them. They unfold, in spite of our best efforts, in clumsy, unsettled messes that become our lives. In Life Without a Recipe, Abu-Jaber stops along the way to consider the terrain. She can't control the events, but she controls the words with tight, perfect sentences. There's a beauty and elegance to the prose that elevates this story of the author's search for identity, resulting in a warm and wise delicacy to be savored.”
— Terry Nebeker (M), One More Page, Arlington, VA
A “bold, luscious” memoir, “indispensable to anyone trying to forge their own truer path” (Ruth Reichl).
On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber’s tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all—even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory “advice” from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others’ well-intentioned prescriptions.
Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two—or in her case, three: to a longhaired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s late forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.
Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.
About the Author
Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crescent and The Language of Baklava. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Pure delight.… Beautiful and lyrical.
— Jim Carmin - Oregonian
About a lust for life, about the jumble of joy and fear and surprise and even pain. It’s about that soft cookie with the crunch inside and the slice of cake with an unexpected lay of tartness. In the end, all of it tastes sweet.
— Amy Driscoll - Miami Herald
With a tenderness that never dips into nostalgia, Abu-Jaber weaves together the stories of those closest to her….Abu-Jaber renders her relationships to both food and family in rich, joyful detail.
— Amanda Winterroth - Booklist
[A] deliciously candid story….Generously seasoned by an abiding love of food and a keen eye for the nuances of human relationships, this book is a reminder that however unpredictable it may be, life is a dish to be savored. A delectably warm and wise memoir.
— Kirkus Reviews
This bold, luscious memoir is both recollection and guide. Brimming with great meals and family struggle, it walks a path between cultural traditions and American individualism. A vivid story of one writer’s journey to build a creative life, one lived ‘without recipes,’ this book will be indispensable to anyone trying to forge their own truer path.
— Ruth Reichl
Wonderfully written, honest, funny, and deeply heart-touching, Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir is a joyous read that speaks to the creative spirit in us all.
— Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Filled with visceral joys and literary beauty as well as soulful honesty and a gripping story. Diana Abu-Jaber writes trenchantly and gorgeously about family, marriage, and motherhood with insights and connections that feel hard-won and richly earned. Her sharp intelligence and unsparing self-knowledge bristle on every page alongside her passionate brio for life in all its flavors and complexities.
— Kate Christensen, author of Blue Plate Special and The Great Man