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 identity, love, and family as they do about food.
"A culinary memoir that's as delectable for its stories as for its accompanying recipes. . . . Rich, dense, and flavorful" —Entertainment Weekly
"Wonderful, touching and funny. . . . Honest and precise. . . . Abu-Jaber explores [her cultural] duality with a generous spirit and clear-eyed vision. . . . A lush and lyrical memoir." —The Miami Herald
"Incredibly powerful. . . . The world described is so strange and sumptuous, the characters so large and comedic, and the descriptions of the food so enveloping and mouthwatering that you want to climb into this world and make it your own." —The Oregonian
"Exquisite. . . . With humor and grace, the author explores timeless topics of love, cultural adjustments and what being rootless means. . . . [Abu-Jaber] takes us on an insightful journey. . .we ought not to miss."
—The Seattle Times
"Truly charming. . . . A fascinating memoir of confused exile, great food, and home truths."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
WINNER - New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
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. She is also the author of 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. Her website is www.dianaabujaber.com.