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From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals, in turn, illuminate the two cultures of Diana's childhood—American and Jordanian—and the richness and difficulty of straddling both. They also bring her wonderfully eccentric family to life, most memorably her imperious American grandmother and her impractical, hotheaded, displaced immigrant father, who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children. As she does in her fiction, Diana draws us in with her exquisite insight and compassion, and with her amazing talent for describing food and the myriad pleasures and adventures associated with cooking and eating. Each chapter contains mouthwatering recipes for many of the dishes described, from her Middle Eastern grandmother's Mad Genius Knaffea to her American grandmother's Easy Roast Beef, to her aunt Aya's Poetic Baklava. The Language of Baklava gives us the chance not only to grow up alongside Diana, but also to share meals with her every step of the way—unforgettable feasts that teach her, and us, as much about identity, love, and family as they do about food.


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From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals, in turn, illuminate the two cultures of Diana's childhood—American and Jordanian—and the richness and difficulty of straddling both. They also bring her wonderfully eccentric family to life, most memorably her imperious American grandmother and her impractical, hotheaded, displaced immigrant father, who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children. As she does in her fiction, Diana draws us in with her exquisite insight and compassion, and with her amazing talent for describing food and the myriad pleasures and adventures associated with cooking and eating. Each chapter contains mouthwatering recipes for many of the dishes described, from her Middle Eastern grandmother's Mad Genius Knaffea to her American grandmother's Easy Roast Beef, to her aunt Aya's Poetic Baklava. The Language of Baklava gives us the chance not only to grow up alongside Diana, but also to share meals with her every step of the way—unforgettable feasts that teach her, and us, as much about identity, love, and family as they do about food.

30 review for The Language of Baklava: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mackey

    It took me forever to read Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava: A Memoir simply because I never wanted it to end! I savored each of the stories, reading some of them twice, and tried many of the recipes that she shared. In fact, I loved it so much that after completing the e-book I ordered the hardcover to own. It's truly delightful. I needed to read a "food memoir" for a book challenge and chose this one because I could eat baklava forever and a day. I knew nothing about this book before beginn It took me forever to read Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava: A Memoir simply because I never wanted it to end! I savored each of the stories, reading some of them twice, and tried many of the recipes that she shared. In fact, I loved it so much that after completing the e-book I ordered the hardcover to own. It's truly delightful. I needed to read a "food memoir" for a book challenge and chose this one because I could eat baklava forever and a day. I knew nothing about this book before beginning. Abu-Jaber is a Jordanian-American who lives in upstate New York surrounded by her incredible family who have come over from Jordan and her American mother - all who have the most fascinating personalities. Each chapter is a new story from her life revolving around her family told with such humor, love and delightful prose that you will feel as though you are right in the middle of tale with them. At the end of the story she shares a recipe that ties in with the story. For example, in the tale of the poor slaughtered lamb, and really even for PETA this is a must read, the recipe is not one for lamb kabobs as anticipated but rather for humanitarian vegetarian soup. Yes, that type of humor carries the day throughout the book. I simply cannot recommend this memoir highly enough and look forward to reading other books by Abu-Jabar.

  2. 5 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    Rating 4.5 I enjoyed this book so much. If you love food, all types of food, then this is the book for you. The author tells the story of her growing up and how much food was a central part of her life. She grew up in both the United States and in Jordan and she tells wonderful stories of each of these times. Her father, Bud, is such a unique character and would be someone you would love to just talk to for hours on end. Food is extremely important to him and his family. The tales of the most bas Rating 4.5 I enjoyed this book so much. If you love food, all types of food, then this is the book for you. The author tells the story of her growing up and how much food was a central part of her life. She grew up in both the United States and in Jordan and she tells wonderful stories of each of these times. Her father, Bud, is such a unique character and would be someone you would love to just talk to for hours on end. Food is extremely important to him and his family. The tales of the most basic meals are wonderful - the delicious sounding picnic in NY when the snow is barely melting outside is one that will stick with me. (It was done to show the neighbors a thing or two since they frowned on the family eating in their front yard) The book is a great coming of age story and within the book there are many recipes. I feel like I've been reading this one for so long but I've been slowly savoring the entire book, going back and reading the recipes again and again. It deals with multiple cultures and learning about them and immigrants in the US. A winning 'recipe' for me. Diana Abu-Jaber can tell a story and I've already grabbed another book of hers and I'm so anxious to start it. I'm looking forward to reading the many other books by her as well. This one has been a highlight for me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    3.5★ I wanted a foodie memoir, and that's precisely what I got with this book by Diana Abu-Jaber, who describes a life straddling two cultures. Although I enjoyed it, I've rated it down slightly as I thought it was a bit patchy. For probably the first 2/3, following Diana's life from the meeting of her Jordanian father and American mother, through until the end of her university years, it was excellent; warm, detailed and immediate. Then there's a gap of a number of years while she's establishing 3.5★ I wanted a foodie memoir, and that's precisely what I got with this book by Diana Abu-Jaber, who describes a life straddling two cultures. Although I enjoyed it, I've rated it down slightly as I thought it was a bit patchy. For probably the first 2/3, following Diana's life from the meeting of her Jordanian father and American mother, through until the end of her university years, it was excellent; warm, detailed and immediate. Then there's a gap of a number of years while she's establishing her career. When we rejoin Diana she's been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to go and live in Jordan for a year while she writes a novel, and it's almost like a different book where she is no longer the central figure in her own story. The distance she put between us cooled my interest fairly rapidly, and I started to skim-read through to the end. Generally I expect a foodie memoir to be about someone who loves to cook, but that's not so much the case here. The author loves to eat, but the cook is her father, Gus/Bud, who clings to his Jordanian Bedouin roots through his food, whether the family is living in upstate New York or in Jordan itself (they travel to and fro a little). Where the author excels is in describing the food and how it fits into her story, and she generously peppers the text with her family recipes. I've selected a couple to try. My favourite part of the book was when Diana was 8-ish, and the family was living in Amman together for the first time. It amazes me that an adult can have such vivid memories of their tender years. Conversely, my least favourite part was a chapter covering an excruciating lunch at the home of Great-Uncle Jimmy, coincidentally also in Amman, where Jimmy and his wife Selma seek to dispel the ugly rumours of their mistreatment of their Sri Lankan servants. It was so jarring, it was almost like it didn't deserve a place in this book. However, for the most part, the tone of the book is fairly light, making for a pleasant read. I've added one of the authors novels to my TBR and look forward to reading her fiction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    doreen

    I finished Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, which I checked out from the library, and I may have to get a copy of this book. It's a wonderfully written memoir filled with memories and food recipes, much of which hailing from Abu-Jaber's Jordanian heritage from her father's side, but some others that are pulled from other places. Much like Kim Sunée's Trail of Crumbs, which is another memoir mixed with recipes, Diana Abu-Jaber's recollections place a major focal point on the food, I finished Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, which I checked out from the library, and I may have to get a copy of this book. It's a wonderfully written memoir filled with memories and food recipes, much of which hailing from Abu-Jaber's Jordanian heritage from her father's side, but some others that are pulled from other places. Much like Kim Sunée's Trail of Crumbs, which is another memoir mixed with recipes, Diana Abu-Jaber's recollections place a major focal point on the food, which is sensuously described. The recipes seem more attainable, and there are a few that are vegetarian-friendly. The people Abu-Jaber describes, especially her father, are shown lovingly, and I'm particularly fond of her Auntie Aya, the only daughter among many sons. The appearances she makes in Abu-Jaber's book are memorable--especially the conversation she has while making sweets with a teenage Diana on page 186 that I've included in my favourite quotes on my Goodreads profile: "Marry, don't marry," Auntie Aya says as we unfold layers of dough to make an apple strudel. 'Just don't have your babies unless it's absolutely necessary." "How do I know if it's necessary?" She stops and stares ahead, her hands gloved in flour. "Ask yourself, Do I want a baby or do I want to make a cake? The answer will come to you like bells ringing." She flickers her fingers in the air by her ear. "For me, almost always, the answer was cake." Seriously, best reasoning ever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I had mixed feelings about this book. When I first realized it was a book with recipes in each chapter, I thought, oh, no, one of those cooking books that are cutesy and vapid. But, no, it is a well written and delightful memoir of a Jordanian-American family with a high energy, outgoing father who loves to cook. The recipes are not the point of the book but simply seem to emphasize certain lessons in growing up in the author's culture. My favorite part was the year that the family spent in Jord I had mixed feelings about this book. When I first realized it was a book with recipes in each chapter, I thought, oh, no, one of those cooking books that are cutesy and vapid. But, no, it is a well written and delightful memoir of a Jordanian-American family with a high energy, outgoing father who loves to cook. The recipes are not the point of the book but simply seem to emphasize certain lessons in growing up in the author's culture. My favorite part was the year that the family spent in Jordan. I was really enjoying the book and then suddenly about 2/3 of the way through, it's like someone else took over the story. The book should have ended when the author goes away to college. After that it becomes labored, slow, and basically boring. Even her trip back to Jordan as an adult is close to unreadable. Where was the editor?? I would say, read it till you get to the college days. Then stop. You will have enjoyed a well-written memoir, felt absorbed into the Jordanian-American culture, learned something about middle-eastern cooking. But I know you won't stop and then it will be just another ho hum book. And, oh yes, the author's mother must be up for sainthood - I wish she would write a story about her.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    I love to read. I love to cook. I love to eat good, well prepared food. I love to read about people who cook. But the author apparently isn't a person who cooks, at least not beyond helping grandma or auntie make the occasional pastry. She never does the cooking. It's done for her, or she's invited to a meal cooked by someone else. The recipes are delicious, and a person with some cooking experience should be able to reproduce them--IF you can find the special ingredients. The author glibly stars I love to read. I love to cook. I love to eat good, well prepared food. I love to read about people who cook. But the author apparently isn't a person who cooks, at least not beyond helping grandma or auntie make the occasional pastry. She never does the cooking. It's done for her, or she's invited to a meal cooked by someone else. The recipes are delicious, and a person with some cooking experience should be able to reproduce them--IF you can find the special ingredients. The author glibly stars things like sumac and zaartar and special cheeses and shreddable phyllo dough and says "buy in specialty shop." Meaning, I don't know--New York City? Chicago? Or, if you live where I do, London or Madrid or Barcelona, at the very least. If you don't live in a large city with a sizeable Arabic culture population, you'd better learn to make your own dough, and forget about anything containing other specialty stuff. The memoir itself claims to look back with longing on a happy childhood between two cultures--but it apparently wasn't. There's a thread of bitter anger that runs throughout the writing like grit in a cup of steaming black coffee. Some of the anecdotes read an awful lot like payback. She whines constantly...about being forced to leave her friends and go to Jordan, then being forced to return to the US, then being forced to leave her neighbourhood and move to the country, and then --how dare they!--her parents sell the rambling old house she hated to move to, and move somewhere else. At first I thought she disliked her bland American relatives and their bland American food--her portrait of her maternal grandmother is pretty dam' scathing, and her mother is portrayed as a non-person who just goes along with whatever her husband dictates. Ah, says I, she identifies more strongly with her Jordanian roots? No. She whines about those too. Her father is portrayed as a hapless goofball who drifts from one unskilled job to another, her uncles are shown as manipulative, predatory thieves who think nothing of diddling her dad out of his savings, while the Lebanese branch of the family are shown as filthy rich and privileged, but not the kind who share the wealth...yeah. She even manages to criticise her friends. The American ones eat "strange" foods like eggnog, and she keeps on about how her Jordanian childhood friends weren't very clean. Nice. I guess the authoress' problem is--she doesn't like herself. No matter where she is, or what she's doing, she wants to be somewhere else doing something else, with other people. I myself was a misfit in the place and among the people where I was raised. I myself skipped my junior year of highschool to go to college early. I myself chose to leave my birthplace and make a new home. And yes, there was some culture shock, but I knew early on that we make most of our own happiness or lack thereof by our choices. The authoress of this memoir seems to have been expecting someone, something, someWHERE to make her happy, without realising that she doesn't come off as the most loveable person in the world, either. I do intend to prepare some of the recipes. I do not intend to slog through the memoir again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I could not out this book down. It's basically a memoir of eating and living the Arab way, but it will strike a chord with anyone who grew up in a close family. I loved reading about Abu-Jabber's family adapting to the American way. The trips to the city and NJ and thr family time made me think back on the stories I've heard of how it was when my own relatives lived in that area. The recipes are part traditional part American and are allllll very do-able. I found recipes that I want to make and I could not out this book down. It's basically a memoir of eating and living the Arab way, but it will strike a chord with anyone who grew up in a close family. I loved reading about Abu-Jabber's family adapting to the American way. The trips to the city and NJ and thr family time made me think back on the stories I've heard of how it was when my own relatives lived in that area. The recipes are part traditional part American and are allllll very do-able. I found recipes that I want to make and discovered things about certain dishes that I never thought I'd try. The few words on Gus becoming "Jiddo"made me tear up. I read about half of the book to my Mom because of how often I busted up laughing. This is a book I'd like to add to my own library, to pass around to my frirnds, to cook from, and to be inspired by. It's gooood!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    To continue my continuous craving of Middle Eastern food, the memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber reads very similarly to her novels. You can see how family members she really has get woven into her fictional characters later on. Plus, this book has a bunch of recipes that I will hopefully get to try. Now I just have to sit and wait for her to write more novels! If anyone has recommendations for other books about people who live in two worlds (such as being of Arab-American descent) I would love to hear a To continue my continuous craving of Middle Eastern food, the memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber reads very similarly to her novels. You can see how family members she really has get woven into her fictional characters later on. Plus, this book has a bunch of recipes that I will hopefully get to try. Now I just have to sit and wait for her to write more novels! If anyone has recommendations for other books about people who live in two worlds (such as being of Arab-American descent) I would love to hear about it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liralen

    Abu-Jaber was a dual-culture child: with an American mother and a Jordanian father, she spent most of her childhood in upstate New York but a two-year (relatively brief, but formative) period in Jordan. She portrays her father as a larger-than-life character, eagerly embracing much of what the States had to offer while also hanging steadfastly to certain cultural norms. This is not the sort of book with a tidy start point and end point, or one about a definable thing that happens. Rather, it is a Abu-Jaber was a dual-culture child: with an American mother and a Jordanian father, she spent most of her childhood in upstate New York but a two-year (relatively brief, but formative) period in Jordan. She portrays her father as a larger-than-life character, eagerly embracing much of what the States had to offer while also hanging steadfastly to certain cultural norms. This is not the sort of book with a tidy start point and end point, or one about a definable thing that happens. Rather, it is a coming-of-age memoir about food and family and living between cultures. Just as children pick up languages more easily than adults, Abu-Jaber found it easier to navigate between cultures as a child—to slough off one and pick up the other as a child. As she got older, of course, she had to find more complex ways to manage her identity. I retain vivid impressions [of Jordan] worked into my body, she says, sharp and inexorable—the whiteness of the streets, the stone houses, the running children. These tokens have always been within me: the scent of mint in my parents' garden, the intricate birdsong, the seeded crust of the bread, and the taste of dried yogurt steeped in olive oil. All of it returns in my dreams. But when I deliberately try to reimagine it, it turns to dust (135–136). Abu-Jaber's mother is more of an enigma here than her father. Her father (and his extended family) bursts with energy and emotion, cooking up a storm and concocting one scheme after another. Her mother has it harder, perhaps: thrust into a culture that she did not plan to be part of, on the sidelines while her children adapt with ease. (There's a scene where she makes pancakes in Jordan—the neighbours end up referring to them as 'burnt American flat food' (38). Sadder, though, is the child of diplomats whose parents have taught him to shun/scorn the locals.) But then, despite her comfort with staying in one place, perhaps Abu-Jaber's mother is better equipped for uncertainty and change: This is the way she holds to things, lightly, knowing to let such stuff pass on and through. Neither Bud nor I can do this. We seize up, our insides tightening fiercely around our desires.... Better not to have dreams at all, I think in a surge of bitterness, than to feel this way. Better not to know what could have been (176). Anyway. So it goes. Wide-ranging and thoughtful and full of lush descriptions of food. Lots of searching for answers to questions that can't quite be defined.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Arminzerella

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Diana Abu-Jaber is a product of two very different worlds – American and Jordanian – and like her Bedouin ancestors, she’s comfortable moving from place to place. “Home” is a fluid concept held more in her mind and heart than a stationary place. Her childhood is a rich combination of Jordanian foods and flavors and culture which occasionally war against her American ones - or maybe it’s just that she doesn’t always see eye to eye with her Jordanian father. The Abu-Jabers spend a year in Jordan w Diana Abu-Jaber is a product of two very different worlds – American and Jordanian – and like her Bedouin ancestors, she’s comfortable moving from place to place. “Home” is a fluid concept held more in her mind and heart than a stationary place. Her childhood is a rich combination of Jordanian foods and flavors and culture which occasionally war against her American ones - or maybe it’s just that she doesn’t always see eye to eye with her Jordanian father. The Abu-Jabers spend a year in Jordan when Diana is young and it’s amazing how quickly she acclimates to her new environment. Within weeks she has a new circle of friends and playmates, and the Arabic language comes to her just as easily. Her reminisces are spun between recipes for the foods her father cooked for the family – the same recipes that Diana now uses to cook for herself. Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir was very satisfying. It evokes a vivid sense of place (wherever she happens to be – in America, in Jordan) and is told with humor and some sadness (nostalgia or yearning for all of the places she’s been, the people she’s known, and the things she has experienced). The descriptions of the food (even more so than the recipes) are enough to start one salivating. I love reading about other places and cultures and really enjoyed this memoir.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annika Brandes

    I really enjoyed this! I love the structure of this book. The recipes woven throughout come at appropriate times; it isn't a predictable boring structure. And I love the inclusion of even the simplest of recipes because of the intimate memory it represented in the author's life. Everything sounds soooo delicious, it makes me want to buy the physical copy to try out the recipes. I think I learned a lot about Jordanian culture—one that guiltily has slipped under my radar. But also, anyone who is an I really enjoyed this! I love the structure of this book. The recipes woven throughout come at appropriate times; it isn't a predictable boring structure. And I love the inclusion of even the simplest of recipes because of the intimate memory it represented in the author's life. Everything sounds soooo delicious, it makes me want to buy the physical copy to try out the recipes. I think I learned a lot about Jordanian culture—one that guiltily has slipped under my radar. But also, anyone who is an immigrant or first gen can probably find something to relate to: the huge families, the overbearing father figure, the pull between your home countries. Even though Diana was butting heads with her dad, Bud, throughout the entirety of the book and her life, he was a lovable character and I loved seeing their relationship evolve over the years. Bud is a standout character just by himself. I also really loved the side stories of all of the relatives and friends who visited Jordan/America and the dishes they brought to the table. I read a review that complained that Diana never did any of the cooking, which I thought wasn't really valid since she didn't say she was a cook herself. The Arabic food is her way of sharing her life story and the people attached to it. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes good food and good stories! 4.5/5 for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    don’t know if it was me & my mood or this book but 3/5 ☆ towards the second half things started to feel too sketched out. just wasn’t my type of memoir. (i am more interested in just the author’s life. there was a chapter or two about her friend, Phinny, who came & visited her in Jordan and it drug on and on about his love life and i was just bored. but again, may have been my mood.) i skimmed the last fifty pages because i was just ready to be done reading this. i would still 110% recommend thi don’t know if it was me & my mood or this book but 3/5 ☆ towards the second half things started to feel too sketched out. just wasn’t my type of memoir. (i am more interested in just the author’s life. there was a chapter or two about her friend, Phinny, who came & visited her in Jordan and it drug on and on about his love life and i was just bored. but again, may have been my mood.) i skimmed the last fifty pages because i was just ready to be done reading this. i would still 110% recommend this memoir. just wasn’t for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Thoroughly, completely charming.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bibliophile

    I'd never even considered making my own pita bread until I read the seemingly simple recipe in Diana Abu-Jaber's wonderful memoir The Language of Baklava. In beautiful, resonant language, and delicious-sounding recipes (well, maybe not the Velveeta grilled-cheese sandwich one!) Abu-Jaber explores growing up between the culture of her expansive Jordanian father and that of her reserved and calm Irish-German-American mother. I too grew up in a multicultural household (not Arab in my case, but Sout I'd never even considered making my own pita bread until I read the seemingly simple recipe in Diana Abu-Jaber's wonderful memoir The Language of Baklava. In beautiful, resonant language, and delicious-sounding recipes (well, maybe not the Velveeta grilled-cheese sandwich one!) Abu-Jaber explores growing up between the culture of her expansive Jordanian father and that of her reserved and calm Irish-German-American mother. I too grew up in a multicultural household (not Arab in my case, but South Asian) and her experiences and words really resonated with me; I can still remember the utter shock of coming back to the US when I was nine years old! Moreover, I'm totally smitten with this brief interview with her. She sounds like someone I'd love to hang out with (and maybe have her cook me a meal!) In the absence of actually being able to do that, I highly recommend The Language of Baklava if you like memoirs, Arabic culture, food, or really great and interesting characters.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Culinary memoir, eh? Sounds like a winner to me. Actually, so much foodwriting is shamelessly exhibitionist, a shower of sensory description, a contest to see who can worship more lavishly at the alter of the edible. And a lot of memoir is distracted by the need to editorialize on one's journey. So culinary memoir tends to center on The Nostalgically Delicious and Impossibly Meaningful Meal of Yore. This author's story unfolds naturally, her vivid recollections of shared family meals in the US a Culinary memoir, eh? Sounds like a winner to me. Actually, so much foodwriting is shamelessly exhibitionist, a shower of sensory description, a contest to see who can worship more lavishly at the alter of the edible. And a lot of memoir is distracted by the need to editorialize on one's journey. So culinary memoir tends to center on The Nostalgically Delicious and Impossibly Meaningful Meal of Yore. This author's story unfolds naturally, her vivid recollections of shared family meals in the US and Jordan intimately tied into her shifting sense of identity. Turns out she had been working on another project, not intending to write about herself or food at all. Err, my issues with genre aside, it's a beautiful book, funny and insightful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    "Laugh out loud" funny may be a cliche but I started smiling on page 1 and by page 23, I was laughing out loud. It may just be me ... see for yourself: "I am a hapless kid. My shirts are covered in food. I lose myself searching for four-leaf clovers and get left behind when recess ends. I look up from my hunting to find myself sprawled alone in a clover field, a sunny sky full of white sailing clouds. I get lost on the way to school. I get lost on the way to the washroom. I get lost on the way ho "Laugh out loud" funny may be a cliche but I started smiling on page 1 and by page 23, I was laughing out loud. It may just be me ... see for yourself: "I am a hapless kid. My shirts are covered in food. I lose myself searching for four-leaf clovers and get left behind when recess ends. I look up from my hunting to find myself sprawled alone in a clover field, a sunny sky full of white sailing clouds. I get lost on the way to school. I get lost on the way to the washroom. I get lost on the way home from school. I bring home children from other classes and tell my mother that they'll be living with us now." Did you laugh?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katharine

    It's difficult for me to criticize memoirs. I mean, who am I to criticize someone's life recollections? Nonetheless... I didn't find this book very compelling. Maybe I know too many people who have grown up in multiple cultures and felt identity crisis. Abu-Jaber's life didn't seem that remarkable to me. She was creative in weaving the narrative of food throughout the book. The recipes left me feeling hungry but that was the extent of my inspiration.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    An absolutely lovely memoir that makes you laugh and cry. Does a very good job getting all of us non-Arab readers to begin to understand some of the cultural issues that Americans from that background encounter.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I learned that just because you have a mixed cultural heritage doesn't mean you have anything interesting to say about it or an interesting way to say something about anything.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    I did not find this book "vibrant and humorous" like the jacket claimed. I found it sad and depressing. Most of the stories were upsetting and I didn't find the humor in them at all.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Madhulika Liddle

    Diana Abu-Jaber, eldest daughter of a Jordanian named Ghassan Abu-Jaber ‘Gus’ (though his daughter calls him Bud, since that’s how he insisted on addressing everybody when he came to America), writes about her family. And about food. The Language pf Baklava begins when Diana, six years old, is growing up in Syracuse, America, surrounded by her father’s many brothers and their families. Great big family gatherings, where the tables groan with food and the brothers fight and joke and laugh and fee Diana Abu-Jaber, eldest daughter of a Jordanian named Ghassan Abu-Jaber ‘Gus’ (though his daughter calls him Bud, since that’s how he insisted on addressing everybody when he came to America), writes about her family. And about food. The Language pf Baklava begins when Diana, six years old, is growing up in Syracuse, America, surrounded by her father’s many brothers and their families. Great big family gatherings, where the tables groan with food and the brothers fight and joke and laugh and feed each other. From there, the family—thanks to Bud’s yearning for his homeland, and his conviction that all will be well in Jordan, he will finally find his dream job—moves to Amman. There are other moves, other shifts across continents, between homes. Some are traumatic uprootings, the effects of which last long. Others are gentler, more pleasant. And in between are more trysts with food: a meal at an Oriental restaurant with Diana’s American grandmother, a grand banquet with Bud’s Bedouin clan in the desert in Jordan, a backyard al fresco meal with literary sidelights in the company of classmates. A harrowing childhood excursion to buy ice cream. A frugal meal with an extremely wealthy and extremely eccentric pair of relatives. I liked this book a lot: it’s a superb blend of food and family, of interpersonal relationships. Diana Abu-Jaber has a way with words when it comes to drawing her characters, and all the wisdom, the wit, the madness and life of her family and friends comes roaring through in this book—along with all the food. There are recurrent themes, including xenophobia in differing degrees; the bonding of people over food; tradition versus modernity; the West versus the East; looking for that elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow which never seems to be the right one. And, the food. The food deserves a special mention: it’s so well-written, I spent most of time salivating over the descriptions. Fortunately, Abu-Jaber provides plenty of recipes, not just of the more common dishes like baklava, hummus and falafel, but of relatively little-known ones too (or at least little-known in my part of the world).

  22. 5 out of 5

    F

    My opinion of The Language of Baklava wavered as I was reading it. At first, I found it hard to get into, but once I was hooked, I was hooked... until it become an altogether too familiar story: over-bearing patriarch who wants to relive the glory of his past days and childhood, submitting his daughter who still has not broken free from the familial chains in order to go find herself. It is the story of most Arab households. I think that's the reason I just got tired and didn't feel like picking i My opinion of The Language of Baklava wavered as I was reading it. At first, I found it hard to get into, but once I was hooked, I was hooked... until it become an altogether too familiar story: over-bearing patriarch who wants to relive the glory of his past days and childhood, submitting his daughter who still has not broken free from the familial chains in order to go find herself. It is the story of most Arab households. I think that's the reason I just got tired and didn't feel like picking it up: I both knew what was going to happen, and would not be surprised by anything that did. It is Diana, living in a borderland, much in the same way that I was when I was living in the States, trying to reconcile her fantasized idea of her "Arab home" and the place she has known all her life. It felt a little trite. I've gotten through my own culture shock, my fear of where to fit in by now, so I was reading it a little too late. I didn't get any major revelations or change my perspective on life and home. It is a beautifully written book, and I appreciate that Diana didn't over-flower her language. I do think that it ran a little too long, although I'm not quite sure what she should have cut. I just feel like I got a lot of information that I have no idea what to do with. It was both Diana's memoir and Bud's, and so that's why sometimes it felt like I was receiving too much of one person's story, without expecting them to show up at this moment. Anyway, those are some of my thoughts, somewhat recommended, with reservations. Real rating is 3.5.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A memoir about a person split between two cultures--Jordan (her father) and America (her mother), largely revolving around food and how it relates to her, her family, and both cultures. I never get sick of foodie memoirs, and also books (both fiction and non-fiction) about culture clash. The author feels pulled in two directions throughout the book, and lives in both Jordan and the US for periods of time. Food is fundamental. Food is family, entertainment, and culture here. Food is the centerpiece A memoir about a person split between two cultures--Jordan (her father) and America (her mother), largely revolving around food and how it relates to her, her family, and both cultures. I never get sick of foodie memoirs, and also books (both fiction and non-fiction) about culture clash. The author feels pulled in two directions throughout the book, and lives in both Jordan and the US for periods of time. Food is fundamental. Food is family, entertainment, and culture here. Food is the centerpiece around which all family activities revolve, particularly the Jordanian wing of her family. The central and most compelling person in this book is Bud, the author's Jordanian father. She writes of him romantically and lyrically, noting how he always seems distracted and looking off into the distance, unsure how to root himself in his adopted home. There's a lot of interest here, about fitting in, feeling like an outcast, and re-orienting your sense of self. I also found it interesting to compare and contrast the specific issues of feeling like an outcast due to culture clash, vs. feeling like an outcast due to regular teenage existence. Also, being embarrassed of your parents as a teenager... that happens to native-born Americans too, so how is it different? A matter of degree? Interesting to think about.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Persephone

    I am so glad that I chose to read this book even though it was part of my Young Adult Literature class last semester. Honestly, I'm heart-broken that I wasn't able to hear my professor's thoughts and analyzations about this book. But regardless, this is definitely one of my favorite memoirs I've ever read. The Language of Baklava was so beautifully written. Food is such an important part of culture, regardless of whichever culture you come from. The fact that Diana Abu-Jaber added recipes in bet I am so glad that I chose to read this book even though it was part of my Young Adult Literature class last semester. Honestly, I'm heart-broken that I wasn't able to hear my professor's thoughts and analyzations about this book. But regardless, this is definitely one of my favorite memoirs I've ever read. The Language of Baklava was so beautifully written. Food is such an important part of culture, regardless of whichever culture you come from. The fact that Diana Abu-Jaber added recipes in between scenes made the book feel much more personal. She added recipes for all walks of life, recipes for drinks, for snacks, meals, each with its own wistful subtitle. I will recommend this book to every single person I meet who enjoys books as much as I do. And I know that I will personally recreate most the recipes that I can, with my own added variations. Jordanian culture and food interested me so much, and now I feel as if I know a sliver of information. I feel as if I am part of that culture because it reflects some of my own cultures.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I loved this book. As I read it we were starting the COVID-19 pandemic and this memoir mad a marvelous antidote for the difficult news of the days. Diana Abu-Jaber's father is a Jordanian immigrant. Her mother is an American from Syracuse, New York. Not only is the father Jordanian, he comes from a Bedouin family, thus is restless about settling in one place. The family lives in Syracuse, but visits Jordan for extended periods several times during Diana's early years. She learns to speak both Eng I loved this book. As I read it we were starting the COVID-19 pandemic and this memoir mad a marvelous antidote for the difficult news of the days. Diana Abu-Jaber's father is a Jordanian immigrant. Her mother is an American from Syracuse, New York. Not only is the father Jordanian, he comes from a Bedouin family, thus is restless about settling in one place. The family lives in Syracuse, but visits Jordan for extended periods several times during Diana's early years. She learns to speak both English and Arabic. Her father loves to cook and she shares his interest. The book does a great job of comparing the two lifestyles (US/Jordanian) without judging either. Rather, Diana presents both from an outsider point of view. Each chapter also includes a family favorite Arabic recipe. I highly recommend the book for readers who enjoy learning about other cultures.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Özge Demirci

    There were so many things I could relate to in The Language of Baklava. Reading Abu-Jaber's story I had a chance to remember my memories that I thought I had forgotten. If you have more than one place that you call "home" you will relate to her story and feel that you are not the only one feeling that way. I am excited to try the recipes from the book. Such a rich and delicious book! "I miss and long for every place, every country, I have ever lived and frequently even the places my friends and m There were so many things I could relate to in The Language of Baklava. Reading Abu-Jaber's story I had a chance to remember my memories that I thought I had forgotten. If you have more than one place that you call "home" you will relate to her story and feel that you are not the only one feeling that way. I am excited to try the recipes from the book. Such a rich and delicious book! "I miss and long for every place, every country, I have ever lived and frequently even the places my friends and my family have lived and talked about as well and I never want to leave any of these places. I want to cry out, to protest: Why must there be only one home!"

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lorianne DiSabato

    Diana Abu-Jaber grew up between two worlds: her mother's America and her father's native Jordan. Food is the link between the two, the way she stays connected to her family (and particularly her father) as they move from Syracuse, NY to Jordan and back again. Each of Abu-Jaber's chapters is a stand-alone story with a recipe at the end. Although both Abu-Jaber and her narrative lose their way after she graduates from college--a place with such terrible, soulless food--the latter part of the memoi Diana Abu-Jaber grew up between two worlds: her mother's America and her father's native Jordan. Food is the link between the two, the way she stays connected to her family (and particularly her father) as they move from Syracuse, NY to Jordan and back again. Each of Abu-Jaber's chapters is a stand-alone story with a recipe at the end. Although both Abu-Jaber and her narrative lose their way after she graduates from college--a place with such terrible, soulless food--the latter part of the memoir, when Abu-Jaber receives a grant to travel back to Jordan and write, brings the narrative to a satisfying conclusion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Carr

    This book was *slightly* less set in Jordan than I hoped -- but would probably be better categorized as America and Jordan from a Jordanian-American perspective. I did appreciate Diana's perspective of moving between the cultures of her American mother and Jordanian father. What really makes this book sing, outside of some of individual stories and the characters, is how Abu-Jaber interweaves recipes from her family into the book. The corners I folded down were dishes that made my mouth water ju This book was *slightly* less set in Jordan than I hoped -- but would probably be better categorized as America and Jordan from a Jordanian-American perspective. I did appreciate Diana's perspective of moving between the cultures of her American mother and Jordanian father. What really makes this book sing, outside of some of individual stories and the characters, is how Abu-Jaber interweaves recipes from her family into the book. The corners I folded down were dishes that made my mouth water just thinking about them (though very heavy on the lamb, which I'm going to skip). Without the recipes, it's more of a 3-star book, to be honest (it does run long).

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Benson

    This is a memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber and her father from her childhood into her thirties. Her father was a very outgoing man who immigrated from Jordan and loved to cook. The book meanders through Diana's childhood as she tells stories of her childhood that centered around meals cooked by her father. There relationship could be stormy at times. With each chapter, she includes recipes for the foods that anchor the chapters. The story includes times when Diana lived in upstate New York and when she This is a memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber and her father from her childhood into her thirties. Her father was a very outgoing man who immigrated from Jordan and loved to cook. The book meanders through Diana's childhood as she tells stories of her childhood that centered around meals cooked by her father. There relationship could be stormy at times. With each chapter, she includes recipes for the foods that anchor the chapters. The story includes times when Diana lived in upstate New York and when she lived in Jordan both as a child and as an adult. A quite enjoyable book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena

    Loved it! Will definitely be reading her other books. I'm crazy about the way she uses language. Also I have a special place in my heart for many of the dishes in this book: hummus, muhammara, mujaddara, baba ghanoush, labneh, falafel. I first sampled these items as a college student, and the smells and tastes of these foods are inextricably tied to a sense of freedom and possibility. My friend gave me a copy of this book, and I will be passing it along to another friend, who loves to cook as mu Loved it! Will definitely be reading her other books. I'm crazy about the way she uses language. Also I have a special place in my heart for many of the dishes in this book: hummus, muhammara, mujaddara, baba ghanoush, labneh, falafel. I first sampled these items as a college student, and the smells and tastes of these foods are inextricably tied to a sense of freedom and possibility. My friend gave me a copy of this book, and I will be passing it along to another friend, who loves to cook as much as I do.

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