Saturday November 11 at 5:00 PM we have the great pleasure of presenting Diana Abu-Jaber for her latest book, Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family, available in paperback. Diana is one of my favorite authors; she writes stories that face important issues with humor and compassion. Her characters, in fiction and non-fiction, are memorable and full of zest. All of her books are both great fun to read and enlightening. 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 a delight to read, both lively and insightful. Learn more about this talented author in her memoir, it is brave and honest.
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.
In Crescent, Sirine, a 39 year old Iraqi-American, is happy with her life as a chef in a Lebanese restaurant. She lives with her uncle, a professor, and her adoring dog. I enjoyed reading about a character who was a 39 year old, confident woman. Sirine’s life is going along just fine; she rides her bike to work and enjoys cooking. Then her uncle introduces her to a handsome fellow professor, an Iraqi refugee who turns her life upside down. The book is set in California and Iraq, and it uses its setting well. Diana is very inventive. At the beginning of each chapter is a continuing fable. Eventually the fable includes Omar Sharif, speaking of gorgeous, Omar is serious eye candy. Be wary, the food scenes will make you hungry! Crescent was one of our Fiction Book Club selections in 2009. At the end of the year the Book Club votes on their top four favorites, Crescent was a winner.
Birds of Paradise is a lovely book. Miami heat, the pulsing neon lights color the night sky, and a young girl carries her secrets creating the drama of a family torn asunder. Felice is a beautiful child, with the face of Elizabeth Taylor. She overshadowed her less showy brother, Stanley. Avis adores her daughter. Life was going pretty well for Avis; she is married to Brian, a caring but distracted man, she has a thriving business creating amazing pastries that challenge her creatively, and children she loves. And then Felice leaves, running off into those hot Miami nights as a vulnerable thirteen year old child, taking all the magic away. Avis, Brian and Stanley are left in the wreckage of their lives to try coping with the absence of Felice. As Felice’s 18th birthday approaches her presence seems to haunt her family while the young girl tries to grapple with the secrets she bears and the choices that set her adrift on the streets of Miami.
Origin is set in Syracuse New York during winter, a cold blustery place. Lena lives a quiet life, taking pride in her work as a fingerprint analyst but not expecting much fulfillment outside of the job. Divorced from her philandering husband and living in a flophouse apartment, her main entertainment is taking long walks on the weekend. She looks forward to her walks, spending hours out of doors, stretching her legs as she moves around the city. She accepted her husband’s infidelity, believing she did not deserve more, until he left her shattered and alone. Lena grew up without any information on her ancestry, a foster child allowed to believe the fantastic story that she was rescued by apes and lived in a rain forest. This fantasy leads Lena to look at the natural world intensely, to feel comfortable in the out of doors but also to feel different from others. Her foster mother did not give young Lena the affection she so sorely needed. She grew up lacking an easy way with people. A distraught woman, certain her baby’s death was not SIDs, approaches Lena asking her to investigate. As she starts looking at the baby’s death, she notices there have been an unusual number of similar infant deaths. Is someone killing innocent babies and covering it up as SIDS?
The Language of Baklava is Diana’s earlier memoir about growing up with a Jordanian father, passionate about cooking great food, and an American mother. It is humorous, lively, and will make you hungry!
Diana Abu-Jaber will also be leading a book club discussion of Life Without a Recipe Sunday November 12 at 6:00 PM.
Author events are free and we will have refreshments and drawings for prizes. Please call 541-593-2525, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by Sunriver Books & Music to sign up to attend.