The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar
This powerful and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart—a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and an adventurous mapmaker’s apprentice—“perfectly aligns with the cultural moment” (The Providence Journal) and “ shows how interconnected two supposedly opposing worlds can be” (The New York Times Book Review).
This “beguiling” ( Seattle Times) and stunning novel begins in the summer of 2011. Nour has just lost her father to cancer, and her mother moves Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. In order to keep her father’s spirit alive as she adjusts to her new home, Nour tells herself their favorite story—the tale of Rawiya, a twelfth-century girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker.
But the Syria Nour’s parents knew is changing, and it isn’t long before the war reaches their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety—along the very route Rawiya and her mapmaker took eight hundred years before in their quest to chart the world. As Nour’s family decides to take the risk, their journey becomes more and more dangerous, until they face a choice that could mean the family will be separated forever.
Following alternating timelines and a pair of unforgettable heroines coming of age in perilous times, The Map of Salt and Stars is the “magical and heart-wrenching” ( Christian Science Monitor) story of one girl telling herself the legend of another and learning that, if you listen to your own voice, some things can never be lost.
"The ancient, sometimes mystical connection between maps, people, and knowledge is central to Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar's The Map of Salt and Stars, a double tale of voyage and exile that moves between contemporary war-torn Syria and the caravansaries and khans of its lost past....What Joukhadar does beautifully is to connect, in a vivid and urgent way, Syria and the United States.... The Map of Salt and Stars is important and timely becasue it shows how interconnected two supposedly opposing worlds can be. Our many stories are part of the same larger tale, part of the same larger map.", The New York Times Book Review
“In Joukhadar’s intoxicating debut, the past and present are brought to life, illuminating how, in exile, neither can exist without the other. With clear, exquisite prose, Joukhadar unspools a brightly imagined tale of family and grief, mapmaking and migration. This important book is a love letter to the vanished—and to what remains.” -- Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses
“E. M. Forster taught us that ‘fiction is truer than history because it goes beyond the evidence.’ Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar’s magic first novel is a testimony to that maxim. We’ve all been aware of the plight of Syrian refugees, but in this richly imaginative story we see one small family – both haunted by history and saved by myth – work their way west. It’s beautiful and lovely and eye-opening.”
-- Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and The Guest Room
"The Map of Salt and Stars is the sweeping, thrillingly ambitious tale of Nour, Rawiya, and their parallel searches for home. In twin narratives that unfold eight hundred years apart, Joukhadar captures the unrelenting courage of those who persist amid the trials of exile. A truly remarkable debut." -- Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take and Soy Sauce for Beginners
"Navigation is the theme of this novel built around two voyages. The first is a refugee’s journey as 11-year-old Nour, who was born in New York, returns with her mother to Syria, only to face conflict and a bombed-out home. This story is twinned with a fabulous tale of a medieval expedition to map the Arabic world guided by the stars, creating a work that is both magical and heart-wrenching.",Christian Science Monitor