This month, the Kitchen Reader read "The Language of Baklava" by Diana Abu-Jaber, as chosen by Lisa from The Fork on the Road.
|via Diana Abu-Jaber's official website|
The book is a memoir of the Jordanian-American author growing up in both the US and Jordan. The memories are told almost exclusively through food and include a number of what are probably tasty Arab food. Every review I read of this book was glowingly positive, so I feel like a real outlier to say that the book bored me, almost to the point of me hating it.
My reaction has to do with the fact that I'm a second-generation immigrant - my parents immigrated to North America from Asia back in the 60s, so Abu-Jaber's memoir shares a lot of similarities to my own upbringing. I question whether she truly embraced her Jordanian heritage as much as she describes when growing up in the US, as this was a period of time where uniqueness was not openly embraced and respect for other cultures wasn't at the same level it is now (at least in multi-cultural cities). I also didn't understand the longing that her father Bud and his numerous brothers/cousins/uncles (I couldn't keep track of them all) had for the "old country" - I had grown up with the attitude that the new world held all the prosperity, and that there was no looking back. Add on top of all this that I couldn't keep track of all the relatives in the story, nor was the writing compelling enough to make me care about the characters, so it made for a disappointing read.