Zaina Arafat

Cindy Seip

Zaina Arafat is an LGBTQ Palestinian American writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including Granta, The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, and The Atlantic. You Exist Too Much (Catapult) is her debut novel. On a hot day in Bethlehem, a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity yell at a 12-year-old Palestinian American girl. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgment will echo through her adolescence. When she finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she says. Told in vignettes that flash between New York, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, the book traces its protagonist’s evolution from teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, soon after moving in with her first serious girlfriend, her longings explode into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. At an unconventional treatment center she approaches looking for a remedy, her affliction is identified as “love addiction.” While at the center she starts to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her. Good Morning America said: “This story about love, identity, gender, and family is brilliantly written and questions the effects of maternal love.”