You Exist Too Much
A "provocative and seductive debut" of desire and doubleness that follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she endeavors to lead an authentic life (O, The Oprah Magazine)
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother's response only intensifies a sense of shame: "You exist too much," she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East--from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine--Zaina Arafat's debut novel traces her protagonist's progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as "love addiction." In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings--for love, and a place to call home.
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About the Author
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"Arafat's protagonist is a messy, complicated character who doesn't fit neatly into any single "multicultural" category, and that, all by itself, is refreshing. An . . . intriguing debut." --Kirkus Reviews
"[A] provocative and seductive debut . . . Novels like these don't exist enough." --O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 of 31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape This Year
"Poignant . . . Arafat writes movingly of being caught between identities, homelands, and obligation and desire . . . [A] heartfelt wonder [that] delivers an emotional wallop." --Publishers Weekly
"For anyone who's ever felt their body or identity takes up too much space, this deeply affecting story of doubt and love is a gut-punch and a solace." --Elle, 1 of 30 Most Anticipated New Books of the Summer
"In her uniquely written debut novel, Zaina Arafat tackles the challenges of being a queer Palestinian American attempting to disentagle identities to locate and celebrate the true self." --Karla Strand, Ms.
"The writing here is electric and carries the narrative all the way through. This is an exciting and dynamic book that explores intersectional identity and human longing extremely well." --Electric Literature, 1 of 14 Highly Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books Coming This Season
"A bildungsroman of desire, shame, and addiction." --Electric Literature, 1 of 56 Books by Women & Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read This Year
"Told with sympathy and what seems like some irony, You Exist Too Much intrigues me for its multiculturalism and dissection of the notion that romantic love can be an all-bearing measure of personal fulfillment." --Eleni Theodoropoulos, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
"For all those who've colored outside the lines, as this narrator does, Zaina Arafat offers comfort in the form of a book: It's okay to 'exist too much, ' even as a number of different obstacles--parents, a lowkey conversion camp, religion--try to rein you in." --Evette Dionne, Bitch, 1 of 27 Novels Feminists Should Read This Year
"A novel of self-discovery following a Palestinian-American girl as she navigates queerness, love addiction, and a series of tumultuous relationships." --The Millions, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
"[Arafat's] sharply written vignettes feel like a revelatory memoir . . . The book's heartfelt realism peaks when [the narrator] checks herself into a dubious treatment facility called the Ledge, where she puzzles over her past and finds a strange sense of community among a disparate cast of characters struggling with their own addictions." --them
"You Exist Too Much is a wonderful, surprising, and thoroughly entertaining debut." --Geoff Dyer
"You Exist Too Much gets desire at a deep level: where it comes from, how it pushes and tugs, and how it's virtually never just about who it's about. As the narrator pinballs from one disastrous affair to the next, we get more than the chronicle of a young full-blown love addict, but a keen study in how our wants are bound to place, race, gender, religion, psychology, and family. Zaina Arafat speaks for the persistently hungry." --Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
"Zaina Arafat has dreamed up a narrator who claws herself off the page in her aliveness, ripped between an insurmountable urge to chase desire and a longing for stability, cultural and familial acceptance, and lasting love. The result is an aching, deeply humane bildungsroman that superbly examines the gap between what we have and what we want. Arafat's narrator is propelled by a need to consume other people and know them deeply in attempts to satisfy a bottomless well of thirst. Reading You Exist Too Much will make you want to exist right beside its writer, learning from its stories forever." --Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This
"What a breath of fresh air! Zaina Arafat takes a familiar figure--the restless, womanizing narrator of many a canonical novel--and reimagines it to mordant and delightful effect. Her queer, Palestinian American, love-addict protagonist is pining mostly for a sense of belonging and purpose. She's a deeply relatable character who beautifully conveys the anguish of trying to figure out a life between categories of various kinds. You Exist Too Much is a moving, irreverent, darkly entertaining novel about the agony of family, the mysteries of romantic love, and the painful work of learning where we stop and others begin. Arafat is a true original." --Nina Renata Aron, author of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls
"You Exist Too Much brings the reader so deep into the rationalizations of love addiction that they start to feel reasonable. This novel is a complete envelopment in the protagonist's mind and her desire, bringing to life the interplay of cultural, familial, and personal baggage that makes her feel a lack, and that drives her, again and again, to try to fill it. You Exist Too Much is stunning and will stay with me for a long time." --Lilly Dancyger, editor of Burn It Down and author of Negative Space
"You Exist Too Much is the best kind of debut: pulsing with intellect, soul, and urgency, a book that feels like it needed to be written. Zaina Arafat is a conduit to the hard human stuff that most of us don't want to see; she grabs you, makes you look, and you never want to turn away." --Lucas Mann, author of Lord Fear and Captive Audience