The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.


Product Details

$16.95  $15.76
Akashic Books
Publish Date
5.7 X 8.9 X 1.3 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Gina B. Nahai is a best-selling author, columnist, and full-time lecturer at USC's Master of Professional Writing Program. Her novels have been translated into eighteen languages, and have been selected as Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has also been a finalist for the Orange Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and has won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award, the Persian Heritage Foundation's Award, the Simon Rockower Award, and the Phi Kappa Phi Award. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Huffington Post, among others. She writes a monthly column for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and is a three-time finalist for an LA Press Club Award. Nahai holds a BA and a Masters degree in International Relations from UCLA, and a Master of Professional Writing from USC. She's a former consultant for the Rand Corporation, and a frequent lecturer on the politics of pre- and postrevolutionary Iran. The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. is her latest novel.


"Part murder mystery and part family saga, [Nahai's] latest novel, a fiction finalist for the 2014 National Jewish Book Award, features a wealthy Iranian Jewish family, plagued by a shady Los Angeles businessman who has long claimed to be the heir to the family's fortune. When he is found murdered and then his body disappears, there is a long list of possible suspects."
--Library Journal, included in Jewish Fiction Roundup

"It's the family connections--the true Iranian heritage--that is the luminous heart of the novel."
--The Reporter Group

"Prose that mixes the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez with the hard-boiled, Los Angeles based detective fiction of Raymond Chandler...[Nahai] knows first-hand the community she describes, and she depicts her characters with a loving if sometimes amused eye. This novel feels personal, which makes the story all the more compelling. This is a magic carpet ride you'll want to take."
--The New York Jewish Week

"Intoxicating...And Nahai brings a sharp social satirist's eye to all of post-millennial multi-cultural L.A."
--San Diego Jewish World

"Nahai has crafted a story that will move you with its exploration of the bonds that tie a family together or tear it asunder."
--San Diego Jewish Journal

"[Nahai's] novel has an intoxicating and driving rhythm that pulls you right in...[a] beautiful book."
--Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

"Soaring....In a sweeping epic of melodrama and magical realism, Nahai gives us one family's story, spanning two continents and three generations. It is a portrait of a community in full, and how all the interlocking figures that make up today's Persian village-within-a-city somehow fall short of their deepest aspirations--that is, to return to a time gone by, a place no longer theirs."
--Lilith Magazine

"A sprawling and unlikely combination of Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez and Raymond Chandler, sweeping in the super-rich and the struggles of both Tehran and Los Angeles."
--The National (UAE)

"Simultaneously ironic, dramatic, and witty."

"An energetically inventive epic...Nahai's boisterous, sardonic, sometimes-lurid portrait of a community and the devil in its midst offers unusual, engrossing storytelling."
--Kirkus Reviews

"The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. is a tale to be savored...This is a wonderful novel and [I] highly recommend it."
--Esoteric Moment

One of Jewish Journal's Noteworthy Books for the New Year

One of Jewish Woman Magazine's 8 Great Fall Reads

One of Publishers Weekly's Big Indie Books of Fall 2014

One of Library Journal's 25 Key Indie Fiction Titles for Fall 2014-Winter 2015

"Orange Prize and IMPAC Award finalist Nahai (Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith) returns after seven years with a distinctive look at Iranian Jewish life in America, featuring a Los Angeles-based family hounded for decades by an unprincipled financier from their own community. His disappearance upends everything."
--Library Journal Prepub Alert

Included in Library Journal's "Books That Buzzed at BEA" Roundup, the first word on titles and trends from Barbara Hoffert, Editor

"With The Luminous Heart of Jonah S., Orange Prize and IMPAC Award finalist Gina B. Nahai returns after seven years with another novel of bristly beauty, offering a distinctive look at Iranian Jewish life in America."
--Library Journal, Books for the Masses/Editors' Picks BEA 2014

"Gina B. Nahai has written a brilliant, funny, poignant, and thrilling novel about an Iranian Jewish family's struggle to find its identity in exile in America. Part murder mystery, part comic novel, The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. is a book you will not be able to put down."
--Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and No god but God

"Gina B. Nahai uses her gift for storytelling to add to the pantheon of American immigrant tales, but this time with an Iranian Jewish twist. This novel not only entertains, but asks the bigger question: do immigrants reinvent themselves in America or simply live out their destinies?"
--Firoozeh Dumas, author of Funny in Farsi

"Gina B. Nahai has given us a remarkable new work--part murder mystery, part lyrical novel, part sociological study of Iranian Jewish culture between Tehran and LA. Her sections on old Jewish Iran are simply transcendent; her insights into the Iranian exile culture in California, its excesses and vulnerabilities, are fascinating to read. Nahai brings a mystical touch to whatever she describes, reminding us of the magic--and at times dark and terrifying forces--of this world that so many were forced to leave behind, but continued to carry within them even decades later and thousands of miles away in America. Bravo."
--Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years

"Equal parts Gabriel García Márquez, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Persian Bonfire of the Vanities, this is Gina B. Nahai's breakout book, a quantum leap forward in ambition, humor, and scope that's sure to win her legions of new fans and catapult her onto 'Best Book of the Year' and award short lists. Set in 1950s-'90s Tehran and LA, and gleefully skewering the excesses of both, Nahai's assured, masterly voice sweeps the reader in with its page-turning murder plot, but it's her colorful characters--who are by turns diabolical, hilarious, poignant, scheming, vengeful, tragic, and lovelorn--who form this book's pulsing, exuberant heart."
--Denise Hamilton, author of Damage Control

"Gina B. Nahai's new novel is a boisterous, sometimes hilarious look at a community rarely seen in America. The Iranian Jewish families here fight for the same thing we all fight for--recognition and, of course, love."
--Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here

Praise for Gina B. Nahai:

"A skilled and inventive writer."
--New York Times Book Review

"Nahai's writing recalls that of Gabriel García Márquez and Amy Tan, yet her prose bears its own stamp of inventiveness and vivacity...A modern-day Scheherazade."
--Orlando Sentinel

"From her clear-eyed yet deeply emphatic perch in the New World, Nahai sounds the emotional costs of exile as she explores the trauma of loss for her fellow émigrés. She is, after all, that subculture's finest chronicler."
--Chicago Tribune