Author Reading: Susan Muaddi Darraj
April 4 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
In honor of Arab American Heritage Month, join Susan Muaddi Darraj for a reading and book discussion of her debut novel, Beyond You is the Sea, on April 4th at 5pm!
This event is recommended for all ages. Proceeds from purchases made at Indy Reads supports our English language, literacy, and job readiness programming.
Behind You is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj
American Book Award winner Susan Muaddi Darraj presents a stirring account of the lives of three Palestinian American families, bridging the complex divide between two generations.
Through her new breathtaking novel, Behind You is the Sea (HarperVia; January 16, 2024), Susan Muaddi Darraj offers a timely story about three immigrant Palestinian families and the community they’ve created in Baltimore, Maryland. Told from the perspective of various residents, Muaddi Darraj’s debut chronicles the compelling loves of the Baladi, the Ammar, and the Salameh families—illustrating the breadth of their experiences as they navigate different social, economic, religious, and class realities.
In this engaging account of Arab culture, Muaddi Darraj provides a polyphonic voice for the Palestinian community that mirrors its diversity, interweaving stories of feminism, immigration, class, generational trauma, racial justice, and education equity. Enlightening readers to the trials of first-generation immigrants and its generational effects on families, this novel is an accessible, eye-opening, and timely reflection of current events—and it’s emotionally gripping and often funny.
The Baladi’s struggle financially; in the opening perspective of this multi-narrator novel, Reema Baladi struggles with a decision of what to do with an unwanted baby, as her world comes crashing down around her with the impending death of her Baba.
We meet Reema later and see what her life has now become, when Dalia, the matriarch of the wealthy Ammar family, employs her sister, Maysoon Baladi, to clean up after her spoiled teenagers—and though Dalia and Maysoon despise each other, Maysoon comes out victorious. In another family tale, Marcus Salameh is at odds with his immigrant father, who has thrown his sister out of the family for dishonoring their name. Only on a trip to Palestine to fulfill a wajib, a familial duty, does Marcus experience a sudden transformation, finding a sense of belonging, and a place to truly call home, in the least expected place.
Behind You is the Sea offers an equally complex, haunting, and entertaining narrative, illuminating the difficulties of remaining connected to a culture in a foreign land and creating a future in a country grappling with its own racial and economic trauma, offering insight into a community that’s just like so many others in America—people who have worked long and hard to establish a sense of belonging in a new place, eager to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
Susan Muaddi Darraj is the author of A Curious Land, a novel in stories that earned an American Book Award and was a finalist for a Palestine Book Award. In 2018, she was named a Ford Fellow by USA Artists. A past winner of the Maryland State Art Council’s Independent Artist Award, she is also the author of Farah Rocks, the first children’s book series to feature a Palestinian-American character. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches at the Johns Hopkins University.
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