I refill my coffee cup before anyone can read the grounds...ej
"Crescent," by Diana Abu-Jaber, is a work of art.
Maybe that was her in the scarf and sun glasses heading into the Coos County library as I left on May 3rd. I was hoping to get her to sign "Crescent" and "Arabian Jazz" which I had checked out at North Bend Library when I saw that she was coming to town. Coos Bay, of all places. Although I still have a tough time imagining it, there actually does seem to be something of a worldly culture to this place. At least one that is being given birth.
My wife informed me of a surprise, however, when she got home at 8am from work. Shusli wanted to take me to see John Trudell in Eugene. We were to start getting ready about 2pm. Diana was to be reading at the Coos Bay Library at 2pm. For somereason Shusli thought Diana's reading was at noon and thought it would all work out without complication. I was hoping to see Diana before hand and get her to sign the books for the library, a kind of a surprise that people could see when they checked out her excellent novels. As 10 minutes before 2pm approached, I had to leave and saw whom I believe was Diana. Other things called for my attention, like the sweetness I had to awake from dreams at home and get ourselves ready for our forthcoming journey.
My wife and I went to Empire Cafe last night, May 9th, and had dessert to express our Love for each other as it has been two years and a day since we actually got together (now two years and two days). Shusli is reminded of Portland inside this restaurant. Pix Patissierie is what comes to mind for the both of us. The food is beautifully presented and the deserts we enjoy are the finest in town, no doubt. Chocolate cake with blackberry mousse between the layers. Huckleberry Trifle which delights us with memories of Shusli's jam, much given away at our wedding. Oh my goodness, as far as tasty treats go, nothing has ever topped the flavor of Shusli's sweet jam as it would swirl in my mouth and make me think of Indian Heaven. "This side for Indians to only" or something like that, the sign says on the side of the road. The boundary created by a handshake that guarantees Indians their right to this sacred food. All of that and so much more in a little spoonful of Huckleberry Trifle at the Empire Cafe. The owner, Amanda, Shusli strikes up a conversation with as she pays our bill and buys a loaf of "rosemary sourdough." Amanda, too, mentions how Coos Bay seemed like a cultural dead zone five years ago when she arrived from California. Coos Bay seems to come to life, though, with such a restaurant and such an artist as Diana Abu Jaber having come to town.
Diana Abu-Jaber (seen here with her father) came here to read from her new book, "Origin," of which I have not had the pleasure to read yet. But I just finished "Crescent" minutes ago. The tears and passion and beauty of the whole novel. Diana is one of the most excellent writers whose descriptions of lands and scents makes one ache for the beauty of where we come from...where we belong.
"Crescent" is a Love story between an American/Arab woman and an immigrant professor from Baghdad, Iraq. A Love that aches with such beauty, a beauty we all yearn for, or, at least in my opinion, should yearn for. That Love that makes you ache deep in the belly, heart, and soul. A Love that aches for the taste of Huckleberries and dried salmon. An ache like that which I feel for Shusli every time her beauty reaches into my soul and pulls at the best parts of me I want to deny exist.
The book has been banned in Texas. Nothing says GREAT NOVEL like a novel banned in Texas.
I rarely read fiction anymore. My nose is stuck in textbooks now and news off of the internet. But there is a lull as I do my clinicals for my Nursising Assistant certification. There is the timing of Diana's visit. But Shusli, my sweet, borrowed my attention to go visit a hero of ours and fellow human being, John Trudell. I have no regrets at this decision, but I do regret not having yet met Diana. Key word..."yet."
"Crescent" is about Love, and food, and life, and oh, how "Crescent" made me miss "Hoda's" on 34th and Belmont. The wonderful bread they would bring to our tables hot and ready to eat. The lamb. How Hoda would come to ones table even without knowing you and let you know that in his restaurant you were his friend. We have a restaurant here called "Mediterranean Cafe," and they make excellent food, but Hoda's... Honestly, I would have never thought that North Bend would host a Middle Eastern reastaurant. What a pleasant surprise!
Diana is such an excellent writer that I'm sure I could now talk my wife, Shusli, into walking from here straight to Indian Heaven in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and we could sit amongst the Huckleberry bushes and watch the blossoms turn to fruit, black and purprle against the blue skies and the peaks of Pahto (Mt. Adams) and Sleeping Beauty.
I have been told that "Origin" is also an excellent book by a friend who has read and interviewed more authors than I can imagine. "Origin" is what had brought Diana to the tiny podunk town of Coos Bay.
My favorite part of "Crescent," which you can read through the pages of scents and flavors yourself before coming to the passage, is how Hanif describes his life in Baghdad with a Love and longing that I have only witnessed in one person. I married that person. Shusli, I have seen in her eyes the desire and Love for the Rogue River (where she and her people are from) that Hanif describes of Baghdad. That ache, that beauty, that desire. She has even recently described that desire for the Columbia River. East, of course, and away from Portland, near the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near Indian Heaven, near where my grandmother's folks came from (at least half of her folks). Our hearts both yearn for one place or the other. For beginnings and ends of our story that has no beginning or end.
Like the story Sirine's Uncle tells throughout "Crescent" of Abdelrahman Salahadin. Our story has no beginning and no end like that of Abdelrahman Salahadin. Many of you know who Abdelrahman is... The name we know him by is...
Oh...wait...I have drank all of my coffee and must refill my cup before someone tries to see my future. I like seeing my future, but sometimes...I really like the mystery, too.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Posted by Eugene at 2:16 PM