*2021 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award for Debut Short Story Collection, Finalist.
*2021 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2021, Longlist.
*2020 Short Story Prize, Longlist.
"The richly detailed short fictions in this debut from a Damascus-born scribe form an intricate, breathtaking mosaic of modern Muslim life." --Michelle Hart, O, The Oprah Magazine
The award-winning stories in Dima Alzayat's collection, Alligator and Other Stories, are luminous and tender, whether dealing with a woman preforming burial rites for her brother in "Ghusl," or the great-aunt struggling to explain cultural identity to her niece in "Once We Were Syrians."
Alzayat's stories are rich and relatable, chronicling a sense of displacement through everyday scenarios. There is the intern in pre-#MeToo Hollywood of "Only Those Who Struggle Succeed," the New York City children on the lookout for a place to play on the heels of Etan Patz's kidnapping in "Disappearance," or the "dangerous" women of "The Daughters of Manāt" who struggle to assert their independence.
The title story, "Alligator," is a masterpiece of historical reconstruction and intergenerational trauma, told in an epistolary format through social media posts, newspaper clippings, and testimonials, that starts with the true story of the lynching of a Syrian immigrant couple by law officers in small-town Florida. Placed in a wider context of U.S. racial violence, the extrajudicial deaths, and what happens to the couple's children and their children's children in the years after, challenges the demands of American assimilation and its limits.
Alligator and Other Stories is haunting, spellbinding, and unforgettable, while marking Dima Alzayat's arrival as a tremendously gifted new talent.
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About the Author
Dima Alzayat was born in Damascus, Syria, grew up in San Jose, California, and now lives in Manchester, U.K. She was the winner of a 2018 Northern Writers' Award, the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize and 2015 Bernice Slote Award, runner-up in the 2018 Deborah Rogers Award and the 2018 Zoetrope: All-Story Competition, and was Highly Commended in the 2013 Bridport Prize. Her stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Bristol Short Story Award Anthology, Bridport Prize Anthology, and Enizagam.
"Alzayat's slim, powerful debut collection showcases the author's deep empathy and imagination in stories about grief, assimilation, and trauma... This intelligent collection is a force to be reckoned with."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Originality meets craft."
--Anne Enright, author of The Gathering
"Dima Alzayat scrys the past, spinning narratives that are ahead of our time. War, politics and power come clashing together in these inventive stories that flit between styles and perspectives with dexterity. Alzayat may be the first person to realize that our history is our own black mirror."
--Jacob Hoefer, Labyrinth Books (Princeton, NJ)
"The span of Alzayat's range in just nine short stories is breathtaking and inspiring... Each story is so different, and yet there is a connecting thread of empathy that pulses throughout, giving the collection a heart that is, perhaps, bigger than this world deserves."
--Mallory Miller, Paperback Paris
"In the hands of many other writers, these nine stories that take place around the world, that take place in different voices and tenses and even periods of time, that unspool in vastly different formats, might feel disconnected or disjointed. In the deft and decisive hands of Dima Alzayat, ALLIGATOR's stories are nothing if not inextricable from one another, bonded together, better as their nine-story whole than as nine separate parts. The title story will read as the standout to many people due to its collaging, its ghost story, its careful expansion, through fiction, upon a little-known event in American history in a way that ultimately does justice to the victims and families at the center of its true conflict. But though other stories may appear less innovative formally, they're no less gut-wrenching and their characters no less captivating; in many ways they're just as eager to dispense with the usual anglophone rules about story structure and pacing as their sibling "Alligator." And each story pushes the reader towards a slow dawning of realization about its moral core and meaning, a wave cresting that breaks just before the end and leaves emotional flotsam in its wake. Prepare to be tossed by ALLIGATOR's tide, and beware of what lurks just below the surface."
--Anna Weber, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)
"Powerful short story collection written from different perspectives. The title story is a must-read!"
--Dave Lucey, Page 158 Books (Wake Forest, NC)
"Gloriously hypnotic. These charged, visceral stories get under the skin and stay there. This collection heralds the arrival of an electrifying new voice."
--Irenosen Okojie, author of Butterfly Fish and Speak Gigantular
"This is a wonderful collection, exceptional in fact. Its consideration of displacement and identity is so nuanced, intelligent and tender, and its modes of telling so dextrous, apt and beautiful. In Alligator and Other Stories, lives are captured with care and formidable compassion."
--Wendy Erskine, author of Sweet Home
"Alzayat's compassion for her characters runs deep in this book. I especially can't stop thinking about the title story--an original, heartbreaking and hypnotic collage."
--Katya Apekina, author of The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish
"In the debut short story collection Alligator, author Dima Alzayat proves herself an incredible literary chameleon, writing across history, nationality, gender and age with deep nuance and empathy. The title story, "Alligator," is an ambitious, original take on the history of racist violence in the United States. The range of voices and perspectives rendered with such authenticity in this collection is a major accomplishment. Together the stories form a patchwork of loss and grief that are unsentimental yet resonant."
--Dana Czapnik, author of The Falconer
"I found [Alligator] tremendously assured, wise-cracking and elegaic, with a firm pulse on the magical and mundane. I loved its hard-edged lyricism and the tremendous empathetic range and distinctiveness of vision that Dima Alzayat demonstrates in this wonderful collection that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt caught between cultures, places and the interstices of memory and the loaded everyday."
--Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
"Dima Alzayat's stories are nuanced, unusual and emotionally lacerating. Hers is a voice that is both vital and haunting."
--Stuart Evers, author of Your Father Sends His Love
"Alligator and Other Stories is heartfelt, heartbreaking and heart-mending. It's also razor sharp on the shifting layers of history, family, faith, gender, culture and language that make up that strange thing we call 'identity.' An important, necessary book."
--Jenn Ashworth, author of A Kind of Intimacy