With compelling themes of displacement and reinvention, these stories push boundaries — probing race, class, sexual identity, and family; the role of women in Arab and American culture; and much more. In this collection, mythology meets reality, and Jarrar’s palette spans the world ... The thirteen stories in this collection blend humor with rage, wit with pathos. Jarrar presents an astonishing variety, each story as inventive as it is insightful. It’s a book for this oppressive electoral season, where presidential politics are ugly and destructive, and demagoguery is endeavoring to trample a core American truth: Our country’s strength derives from open borders. Jarrar is here with a correction.
Jarrar’s collection is full of characters whose pain exists side-by-side with their vibrant, witty, no-bullshit personalities ... she writes about the Arab diaspora in all its human complexity during a time of increasing Islamophobia ... Jarrar’s style?—?sensitive, peculiar, and closely observed?—?also has roots in Russian literature, but its rhythm sounds modern and entirely her own.
Her own experience of moving between continents and cultures is reflected all over Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, through characters that always seem to be searching for that one place where they fit in. Often, they don’t, so it’s the nebulous in-between space where their lives unravel ... This collection is not flowery or sentimental, like many personal stories about the immigrant experience or Middle Eastern family life can be. It’s instead sharp and irreverent, sometimes even unapologetically crude ... when Jarrar’s sense of humor tangles with her character’s feelings of estrangement, the results are often charming and funny — in a bittersweet sort of way ... Many of the stories in Him, Me, Muhammad Ali have been published elsewhere, over a wide span of years (it has been eight years since her novel was published). That explains the inconsistent tone that is refined and detailed one minute, reckless and immature the next. And around half of these short stories don’t feel fully explored or finished. They are unique and original but sometimes lack a satisfying conclusion or realization.
Funny and darkly imaginative ... Jarrar’s fiction has exciting range, and she investigates narrative as well as social taboo. Even when her often-fantastical stories veer towards fable, she subverts any expectation of threadbare fairy tale, always finding affecting depths ... In addition to the tremendous imagination that infuses these stories, I’m impressed by their economy and structure.
The fiction in this collection occupies a vast stylistic range, as Jarrar is equally comfortable telling realistic stories of families and relationships in conflict as she is in exploring more fantastical subjects. The result is a book that never succumbs to predictability; instead, Jarrar uses memorable imagery and character dynamics to examine a host of themes ... Jarrar deftly captures the conflicted emotions that can arise when trying to navigate your own identity and the expectations of loved ones ... the result is a powerful evocation of the complex dynamics at work in contemporary life.