You Exist Too Much: A provocative and insightful debut

Novel about young American-Palestinian woman who feels out of place everywhere, even in her own body

Ambivalence, the state of having contradictory feelings or ideas about something or someone, runs like a dark river through Zaina Arafat’s powerful debut novel. Told in vignettes that flash between the US and the Middle East, You Exist Too Much is an unusual bildungsroman that looks at the arrested development – from shy teenager to confused adulthood – of its unnamed narrator, a second-generation Palestinian girl who grows up in a wealthy family in Washington DC.

The narrator has plenty to feel ambivalent about: her love/hate relationship with her mother, bisexuality, an eating disorder, the feeling of not being wholly American or Palestinian. The latter is searingly obvious throughout the book in cleverly detailed ways.

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