Tuesday, 7:30 pm EST November 24, 2020
Our Story/Teller series features actors reading from new works of fiction to give audiences a taste of the language, characters, and story, followed by moderated conversations with the authors. See events in series.
Actors Samy Nour Younes and Leila Buck will perform selections from Zeyn Joukhadar’s The Thirty Names of Night, followed by a conversation with Joukhadar moderated by Jenn Baker.
The captivating novel follows three generations of Syrian-American artists, writers, and activists who come together to help a young trans man discover his true name. Joukhadar takes readers from present-day Brooklyn to once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood of Little Syria, to great depression-era Syrian-American communities scattered West, to the village in Syria.
Zeyn Joukhadar is the author of the novels The Map of Salt and Stars (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2018) and The Thirty Names of Night (Atria/Simon & Schuster 2020), a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI), and a member of American Mensa. His work has appeared in Salon, the Paris Review Daily, PANK magazine, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. The Map of Salt and Stars was a 2018 Middle East Book Award winner in Youth Literature, a 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist in Historical Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. Joukhadar has been an artist in residence at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California; the Fes Medina Project in Fes, Morocco; Beit al-Atlas in Beirut, Lebanon; and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and in 2020 will be an artist in residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France and the Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut.
Leila Buck is a Lebanese American playwright, actor, facilitator and educator. She has performed and developed her work at the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, Culture Project, Brooklyn Museum, BRIC Arts, Cleveland Public, Mosaic Theater at Arena Stage, and California Shakespeare Theater, and lived, performed, and taught theatrical tools for literacy, conflict resolution, and intercultural engagement with NYTW, Lincoln Center and to youth, educators, aid workers, UN delegates and others across the U.S., Europe, China, Australia and 11 Arab countries. As artist-in-residence for Wesleyan University’s Doris Duke Foundation Building Bridges grant, she created interactive work about the (mis)representation of Muslims in the U.S., and received the Edgar Beckham Social Justice Award. Her work is featured in American Theatre; TCG’s Finding Home Essay Salon; Stages of Resistance; Innovation in Five Acts; Etching Our Own Image: Voices from the Arab American Art Movement, and Four Arab-American Plays. She is a member of the Public Theater’s inaugural Emerging Writers Group, a Usual Suspect with New York Theatre Workshop, and teaches Participatory Performance and Civic Engagement and Creation and Representation in U.S. Theater at NYU, from which she holds a Master’s in Theatre for Cross Cultural Education. Website: www.leilabuck.com.
Samy Nour Younes
Samy Nour Younes
Samy Nour Younes (pronouns: he/him & they/them) is a transgender actor and activist of Lebanese/Puerto Rican descent. Their credits include Into the Woods (Ford’s Theater), The Triumphant and Pay No Attention to the Girl (Target Margin Theater), and Well Intentioned White People (Barrington Stage). Samy can also be seen on the fourth season of Transparent (Amazon). Most recently, Samy produced and premiered their solo show, everyday. at The Tank. By day, Samy is an Inclusivity Trainer at the Ackerman Institute’s Gender & Family Project, and the Project & Community Manager at Arts Business Collaborative. To learn more, visit their website at samynouryoun.es or follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @samygolightly.
Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional , creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. She is also the editor of the BIPOC-short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books, 2018) and winner of the 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship and a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant. Her essay “What We Aren’t” was also listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Her prose and interviews can be found on her website at: jennifernbaker.com.
The Thirty Names of Night
By Zeyn Joukhadar
Published by Atria Books
Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s–and his grandmother’s–in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “magical and heart-wrenching” (Christian Science Monitor) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a timely exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.
About this series
Our Story/Teller series features actors reading from new works of fiction to give audiences a taste of the language, characters, and story, followed by moderated conversations with the authors.