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4.0 17
by Diana Abu-Jaber

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An Arab-American novel as delicious as Like Water for Chocolate.Praised by critics from The New Yorker to USA Today for her first novel, Arabian Jazz ("an oracular tale that unfurls like gossamer"), Diana Abu-Jaber weaves with spellbinding magic a multidimensional love story set in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles.


An Arab-American novel as delicious as Like Water for Chocolate.Praised by critics from The New Yorker to USA Today for her first novel, Arabian Jazz ("an oracular tale that unfurls like gossamer"), Diana Abu-Jaber weaves with spellbinding magic a multidimensional love story set in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles. Thirty-nine-year-old Sirine, never married, lives with a devoted Iraqi-immigrant uncle and an adoring dog named King Babar. She works as a chef in a Lebanese restaurant, her passions aroused only by the preparation of food—until an unbearably handsome Arabic literature professor starts dropping by for a little home cooking. Falling in love brings Sirene's whole heart to a boil—stirring up memories of her parents and questions about her identity as an Arab American. Written in a lush, lyrical style reminiscent of The God of Small Things, infused with the flavors and scents of Middle Eastern food, and spiced with history and fable, Crescent is a sensuous love story and a gripping tale of risk and commitment.

Author Biography: Diana Abu-Jaber lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Portland State University.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
As Sirene and Hanif are drawn together, Hanif reclaims a measure of his rootedness. And even if their passion can seem overcooked, the special flavors of longing and estrangement infuse this book with vital insight. — Anderson Tepper
The Washington Post
… a sensual feast that surrounds us with a comforting cushion of romantic and culinary delights in contemporary ethnic Los Angeles, then shocks us when the tentacles of Saddam Hussein's regime reach into this free-spirited world and drag one of the central characters back into Iraq's malevolent maw. — Pamela Constable
Publishers Weekly
Abu-Jaber (Arabian Jazz) weaves the story of a love affair between a comely chef and a handsome, haunted Near Eastern Studies professor together with a fanciful tale of a mother's quest to find her wayward son in this beautifully imagined and timely novel, which explores private emotions and global politics with both grace and conviction. Green-eyed, 39-year-old Sirine cooks up Arab specialties in a bustling cafe in Los Angeles where Arab students gather for a taste of home. When her doting uncle, who raised her after the death of her relief-worker parents 30 years ago, introduces her to his colleague Hanif, the placid surface of her life is disturbed. Their affair begins quickly and ardently, as Sirine, who has heretofore equated cooking with love, discovers the pleasures of romance, and the exiled Han struggles to feel grounded in a place far from the Baghdad he loved as a boy. In Abu-Jaber's sensuous prose, the city is as lush and fragrant as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and her secondary characters, like the wry, wise cafe owner Um-Nadia and the charmingly narcissistic poet and satyr Aziz, are appealingly eccentric. But a darkly troubled photographer drawn to both Sirine and Han, news of Saddam Hussein's latest atrocities and Han's painful memories of his imprisoned brother and his disappeared sister, for whose fates he feels responsible, cloud their affair, perhaps dooming it. Abu-Jaber's poignant contemplations of exile and her celebration of Sirine's exotic, committed domesticity-almond cookies, cardamom, and black tea with mint-help make this novel feel as exquisite as the "flaming, blooming" mejnoona tree behind Nadia's Cafe. Agent, Joy Harris. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Arab community of Los Angeles-a multiethnic mix of long-settled immigrants, the newly arrived, and their U.S.-born counterparts-is vividly captured in Abu-Jaber's intricate second novel (after Arabian Jazz). Ostensibly writing a love story, Crescent weaves a panoply of themes into what might have been a straightforward tale. As the book unfolds, sexual tension between American-born protagonist Sirine and her Iraqi beau, the scholarly Hamir, forms a web around other compelling material: Saddam Hussein's vicious war against Iran, the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iraqi civilians, and the social dislocation felt by political refugees. What's more, multitudinous topics, including community, friendship, loss, and loyalty, are brought to the fore as Sirine uncovers the essence of commitment and devotion. Wise, spirited, and evocative, this work offers an ardent look at the human side of political cant. Essential for all libraries and for all readers interested in understanding the people our government wants us to despise. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A timely fiction about Iraqi intellectuals in Los Angeles blends the whimsy of Scheherazade-style storytelling with the urgency of contemporary politics. Sirine lives an unruffled life in Los Angeles, winning the hearts and stomachs of the homesick Arab students who frequent the Middle Eastern restaurant where she is chef. At 39, she still sleeps in her childhood bed, in the home of her kindly uncle. When she was nine, Sirine's parents (Iraqi father and American mother) were killed on the job as Red Cross relief workers, and Uncle's home, filled with Arab scholars from the university where he teaches, has been her haven ever since. A new colleague of his begins frequenting the café-the handsome and kind Hanif. The two begin a passionate (and flavorful: much of the story is concerned with cooking) affair, but Uncle warns Sirine that Arabs are lonely people, exiled Arabs lonelier yet. Having escaped his beloved Baghdad just as Saddam Hussein came to power, Hanif hasn't seen his family in 20 years and believes that his sister's death is the result of his own subversive essays. Others give context to the romance: Um-Nadia, who owns the café, is always ready to read Sirine's coffee-grounds; the poet Aziz, full of mischief, has an eye for Sirine himself; and Nathan, an American photographer who lived in Baghdad, may have more of a connection to Sirine and Hanif than anyone knows. Woven throughout is Uncle's tall tale of Auntie Camille, who sells herself into slavery, journeys down the Nile to speak with the Mother of All Fishes, meets a mermaid, and then travels the desert with the Blue Bedouins, all in the hope of finding her naughty son, cousin Abdelrahman Salahadin (who may or may not havechanged his name later to Omar Sharif). When Hanif grows withdrawn, there is the fear that he may return to Baghdad, to home, and to almost certain death. What might have been the stuff of any romance is forged into a powerful story about the loneliness of exile and the limits of love. An impressive second outing by Abu-Jaber (Arabian Jazz, 1993).

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.15(d)

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Crescent 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a class, and I have to say that she is an excellent writer. I loved her use of food as a metaphor for desire. She also has a great sense of descriptions, they are very unique. If you get a chance to buy this, please do. I know I won't be selling this book back at the end of the semester.
VictoriaAllman More than 1 year ago
Rarely does a book come along where you know by page 2 that this will be one of the best books you have ever read. Diana Abu Jaber's Crescent is that book. It is a sensual exploration of food, love and living in exile that jumps from the page and grabs your heart. Jaber writes "Chef's know-nothing lasts" "In the mouth and then gone." That sad fact is how I feel about Crescent. It was over too quick, but unlike the memory of that perfect taste that is near impossible to replicate, I will re-read Crescent to recapture the feeling of the perfect novel. Victoria Allman Author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey With Her Captain
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good and distinctive work, full of poetic prose. This novel evokes a wonderful sense of culture and place and brings sensitively written accounts of human feelings and relationships. And the food! And the Arabian tales! And the stark realities of many aspects of the Middle East -- and the United States. And the twists and surprises as we come to know the characters. Eager to read more by Diana Abu-Jaber.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It reminded me of Chocolat, Five Quarters of An Orange. The book has two stories happening simultaneously. The book allows the reader to gain insight into the beauty of the Arab world in America. I definatetly recommend it. It is a great book club book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know why this book isn't at the top of the charts-- it is AMAZING. Crescent moved me in a way that few books ever have-- and I've been reading for a long, long time. The subject is timely and important, but it's much more than a book about Iraqis-- its a book about PEOPLE. And love and food. I think it's entirely unique.
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Habeebti More than 1 year ago
This is my story. I shall cherish it always.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this book in the sale annex and I wasn't sure about it, but desided to buy it based on the readers reviews. I am glad that I did. There are a lot of interesting characters. I love the story that Sirine's Uncle tells through out the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story, the descriptions, the characters: all remain in my mind as when one is partaking of the best. They are rich and spicy and complex. The setting of a restaurant quite aptly provides the cornerstone for this marvelous description of life among an Arab American community. The dual perceptions of life from an American and international perspective add even more depth to this delightful, thought-provoking novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of these two lovers is gorgeous! I think they will stay with me for a long, long time to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The topic holds a lot of promise but doesn't deliver a home run. The author gives a glimpse of what it is like to be an Arab in the U.S. and in Iraq under Saddam H. The romance is predictable and has the overblown drama of a 30's- 40's movie romance. The pacing is also a unbalanced. You have to get through half of the book before you are introduced to the storyline's intrigue. The entire storyline unfolds and reaches resolution in the last 50 pages--events should have been better spaced out. Building empathy towards the issues Iraqis face without being preachy is this author's greatest achievement.