Monday, 2:00 pm EST June 15, 2020
2:00pm ET / 11:00am PT
This program is part of our Inside and Out Pride 2020 event series, which offers solace and affirmation to the LGBTQ+ community during a time of isolation from trusted social groups and support networks.
Zaina Arafat’s highly anticipated debut novel You Exist Too Much is a candid story about a young Palestinian-American woman who struggles with bisexuality and love addiction. Her Arab-Muslim culture in which she grows up further complicates her intense longing for romantic connection and queer identity. Zaina will be in conversation with Zibby Owens, creator and host of the “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” podcast.
“For anyone who’s ever felt their body or identity takes up too much space, this deeply affecting story of doubt and love is a gut-punch and a solace.” —Elle, 1 of 30 Most Anticipated New Books of the Summer
Zaina Arafat is a Palestinian American writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including the New York Times, Granta, the Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, VICE, and NPR. She holds an MA in international affairs from Columbia University and an MFA from the University of Iowa and is a recipient of the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She grew up between the United States and the Middle East and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Zibby Owens is the creator and host of award-winning literary podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” She hosts frequent author events including book fairs and salons. A mother of four and a writer herself, Zibby has contributed to Redbook, Marie Claire, Parents, Huffington Post, the New York Times online, What’s Up Moms, Kveller, Shape, SELF, and many other publications. She has been called “NYC’s Most Powerful Book-fluencer” by Vulture.com. Her podcast was selected as one of Oprah magazine’s top 21 book podcasts in 2019. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School, she previously worked at Unilever, idealab! and other start-ups. She currently lives in New York with her husband, Kyle Owens of Morning Moon Productions, and her four children, ages 5-12.
You Exist Too Much
By Zaina Arafat
Published by Catapult
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.” In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love, and a place to call home.
About this series
Inside and Out
Inside and Out is a new series from The Center for Fiction to run this Pride Month 2020! The series offers solace and affirmation to the LGBTQ+ community during a time of isolation from trusted social groups and support networks. Featuring a phenomenal line-up of authors whose books center the unique experiences of queer characters, conversations will explore how sexuality and gender identity intersect with race, class, religion, and nationality.