Setting: West Los Angeles, "Irangeles", California; Iraq
"...The Americans need to hear our poetry and stories...." (from Crescent)
Crescent, by half-Jordanian, half-American, Diana Abu-Jaber, is a welcome antidote to the, more often than not, faceless Iraqis on the evening news. Reading Crescent, it is impossible to not feel a connection with Iraqi citizens and immigrants. Journeying into the pages of Crescent, a Middle Eastern enclave in West Los Angeles, "Irangeles", comes alive. As Sirine shows her lover, Han, the Los Angeles she's known since birth, readers, too, discover the neighborhood; are enticed by the aromas and tastes of her Middle Eastern cooking; and empathize with her struggle to learn more about her Iraqi heritage. Through Han's and other characters' memories, conversations, and debates, readers begin to learn just a fraction of what it is to be Iraqi. We imagine Iraq's landscape and learn a little about its history, politics, beliefs, literature, and music. We also learn what it is like to live in exile. With the continuing war in Iraq, this is a perfect time to read this wise, beautiful, sensuous book.
https://www.wwnorton.com/rgguides/crescent.htm (Reading Guide)
https://www.isop.ucla.edu/cnes/ (UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies)
"'Tell me what Iraq is like....'"
"'Iraq is endless. As a child, I thought it held the whole world,' he says. 'There's the Euphrates River going one way, the Tigris another. In Baghdad the Tigris is like a reflecting mirror under the tall buildings. The gold and turquoise mosques with their big courtyards, all the libraries and museums, the great wooden doors and massive gates. But it's more than buildings -- there is a special quality to the air in Iraq. A feeling.'"
"'It's like sometimes I feel like I can sense the ghosts of all sorts of invisible cities and places that used to be there, on that land -- the Chaldean Empire and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- I know I'm not telling this very well. The night there seems to start two thousand years ago....'" (from Crescent)