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Arab American Novel, ‘The Night Counter’ Receives Raving Reviews

posted on: Aug 12, 2009

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BY: Ameera David/Contributing Writer

Although just released on July 14th, Arab American novel ‘The Night Counter,’ has received enthusiastic reviews from an array of new sources and readers nationwide. The Chicago Tribune has selected it a “Hot Summer Read” and it has been named the “Best in Summer Reading” by the Boston Phoenix. In the enchanting debut, author Alia Yunis puts a contemporary twist on the classic collection of folktales “One Thousand and One Nights.”

The novel follows 85-year-old, Lebanese born immigrant Fatimah Abdullah, as she approaches the end of her life. In fact, Fatimah knows the exact day of her death as it will correspond to her last night of story-telling (1001st night) to her mystical companion, Scheherazade . However, before Fatimah can peacefully pass on, she must first tend to the qualms of her dysfunctional Arab American family.

Amongst her many tasks are teaching Arabic and sexual education to her 17-year-old great-granddaughter, finding a wife for her openly gay grandson, and deciding which of her troublesome children should inherit her family’s home in Lebanon. As if that isn’t enough, she has to do all of this while under the observation of two incompetent FBI agents eager to uncover Al Qaeda in Los Angeles.

While the book is purely fictional, Yunis admits that the characters were inspired by her childhood experiences growing up in an Arab American household in Minnesota: “They were the voices I heard all my life” said Yunis. The author also shares that while writing, she thought back to some of her visits to Dearborn, home to the largest Arab American community. In fact, she was so enthralled with the dynamic of the city that she used it as a setting for the main character, Fatima, and her husband upon their arrival to America from Lebanon.

When asked what audience the novel is intended for, Yunis said, “There is a little something for everyone.” The author had hopes of reaching out to a multifarious group of people—both Arabs and non-Arabs alike. While she wrote the novel with intentions of dispelling common stereotypes about the Arab people, she also wrote with her fellow Arab Americans in mind. Yunis affirmed “They are going to recognize their own families when reading and will have fun pointing out the kookiness of living an Arab life in America!”

‘The Night Counter’, a charming blend of family and fantasy, is said to be rich in content with splashes of good humor along the way. It is clear the captivating novel merits the attention it has received. So, as readers set out to find that last good read to culminate the summer, ‘The Night Counter’ should not be forgotten.