You Exist Too Much
By Zaina Arafat
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 AuthorZaina Arafat is a Palestinian-American writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Granta, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, VICE, and NPR. She holds an M.A. in international affairs from Columbia University, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, and is a recipient of the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She grew up between the U.S. and the Middle East and currently lives in Brooklyn.
BuzzFeed, 1 of 83 Books to Keep on your Radar This Year
"[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
"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
"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
"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