“Hala Alyan's Salt Houses flies like a searchlight between history and fiction, unearthing the life of a single Palestinian family among the rubble and illuminating it so deeply, so brilliantly, we cannot help but connect the story's richly imagined past to our very real present."

Mira Jacob,

The Sleepwalkers’ Guide to Dancing



Dislocations: Hala Alyan and Lauren Wein

Wednesday May 3, 2017
07:00 pm

Tags: Event






On May 3rd, we celebrated the launch of award-winning Palestinian-American poet and writer Hala Alyan’s debut novel Salt Houses. Set during Palestine’s Six-Day War in 1967, Salt Houses tracks one family from Nablus as they are torn from each other and their home. Alyan was joined by her editor, Lauren Wein.

About Salt Houses:

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.


Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.


Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again.

Hala Alyan is an award-winning Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner and Colorado Review. She resides in Manhattan.


Lauren Wein is an executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she focuses on literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and translation. Before arriving at HMH in 2011, she spent fifteen years as editor and rights director at Grove/Atlantic. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughters.