Book Reading/Signing: Origin: A Book Reading by Diana Abu Jaber

Fri, July 27, 2007 6:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Free and open to the public

Refreshments will be served

With prose as cool as a razor yet as wildly impressionistic as a fever dream, Diana Abu-Jaber takes us deeply into Lena Dawson and her search for a killer that must first begin in the lost forest of her own psyche. ORIGIN is a gripping exploration of the elusive nature of identity and one's own remembered past, the innocent and guilty alike.

This is a superbly written and utterly compelling novel! --Andre DubusIII, author of House of Sand and Fog

With the narrator, Lena Dawson, we get someone entirely new, a hybridof forensic science and animal instinct. Here is a brilliant protagonist who can trust her intuition when she reaches the limits of her professional training.-- Chuck Palahniuk, author of Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey and Fight Club

A dark, noirish literary mystery with an entirely unique detective-heroine. The characters stayed with me long after I had finished the book. I'm not sure I've ever read anything like it, which alone is reason to celebrate.-- Anita Shreve, author of Body Surfing and A Wedding in December

Booklist has a Star for Origin...

Admirers of Abu-Jaber's previous exquisite and witty novels will be surprised that she has written a mystery, albeit one poetic in tone and profound in its inquiry into the nature of memory and the self. Set in wintry Syracuse and narrated by Lena Dawson, a reclusive fingerprint expert working in a gossipy city crime lab, Abu-Jaber's complex drama revolves around a baffling string of infant deaths. Is the culprit SIDS, something environmental, or the work of a serial killer? Separated from her police-officer husband, Lena is assaulted by painful questions and bizarre flashbacks. Why didn't her foster parents adopt her? Could she have been raised by a great ape in a rain forest, as she believes? Lena does have an exceptional sense of smell and phenomenal intuitive powers, which enable her to solve difficult murder cases. Drawing on time-tested literary antecedents as well as such television characters as the protagonist in TheCloser for her smart yet chaotic and underestimated hero, Abu-Jaber crafts an utterly magnetic story of children abused and cherished, of toxic secrets and severely tested love, and of the struggle for identity and truth. Readers seeking gorgeously rendered fiction as well as intelligent and atmospheric mysteries will find Origin extraordinary.

A Starred Review for Origin from Publisher's Weekly...

Abu-Jaber, who dealt with Arab-American themes in her earlier novels,Crescent and Arabian Jazz, shows her versatility in this grippingcontemporary thriller. A spike in the number of local SIDS deaths piques the interest of Lena Dawson, a fingerprint specialist at a Syracuse, N.Y., forensics lab. Is it a statistical fluke or is there a killer at work? Determined to account for the dead infants, Lena joins the investigation, which stirs tantalizing memories from her dimly recollected early childhood. Despite her fragile mental state, Lena proves capable of surprising resolve. Her relationship with her protective ex-husband, her budding romance with a detective and her quest for her own lost past add psychological depth. Abu-Jaber's lovely nuanced prose conveys the chill of an upstate New York winter as well as it does Lena's drab existence before she was drawn intothe mystery of the crib deaths. This enthralling puzzle will appeal to both crime fans and readers of literary fiction.

A rave from the Kirkus Review...

A moody thriller from Arab-American Abu-Jaber (The Language of Baklava, 2005, etc.) that transposes the author's usual questions of identity onto a young lab tech who believes she was raised by apes.

Life is grim for Lena Dawson, a fingerprint examiner for the Syracuse police. Uncertain about her own origins, or her sanity, the delicately pretty technician has carved out a spare existence for herself since her philandering husband, Charlie, left, and has also lived down the brief flare of fame that followed her uncovering of crucial evidence in the murder of a child. Still, she knows her grasp on reality is tenuous, and she's content to live now primarily for her work. Her fragile solitude is disrupted when a grieving woman, unconvinced that SIDS was the cause of her baby's death, seeks her help. Lena's own acute senses tell her that something is amiss when other babies turn up dead. She's soon interacting more than she'd like with the desperate mother, her own brittle foster parents and a woundeddetective named Keller, who sparks rough jealousy in her ex. Lena's sanity is challenged when she starts to think she's being stalked by the killer. But Abu-Jaber transcends formula, weaving the whodunit in prose as evocative as poetry. In winter-gray Syracuse, Lena's senses are heightened. Haunted, moving crime fiction.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of Crescent, which was awarded the 2004PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction and the Before ColumbusFoundation's American Book Award and was named one of the twenty bestnovels of 2003 by The Christian Science Monitor, and Arabian Jazz, which won the 1994 Oregon Book Award and was nominated for th PEN/Faulkner Award. She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami.

Last updated: 2007-11-26 12:00:54

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