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Publisher's Summary

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother's response only intensifies a sense of shame: "You exist too much," she tells her daughter.

Told in vignettes that flash between the US and the Middle East, Zaina Arafat's debut novel traces her protagonist's progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as "love addiction." In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.

You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings - for love, and a place to call home.

©2020 Zaina Arafat (P)2020 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about You Exist Too Much

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • JL
  • 11-03-20

Meh - didn't care about the character in the end

I didn't even finish this book - I think I'm about 30 min away from the end. I just lost interest in the deeply flawed character and her endless broken relationships. It just feels like reading someone's personal journal and is not that interesting to an outsider. Maybe I don't identify with the way the character views love? Didn't mind the narrator as others did.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator is distractingly bad

What could have been a wonderful book to get lost in turned into a painful slog because of a really poor narrating job. The narrator uses a quasi-Indian accent for Arabic speakers throughout the book, mispronounces Arabic words like Ramallah and teta. Other accents are equally bad—noticeably French and Spanish. It was appallingly bad, and I feel very sorry for the author of this book. This audio recording massacres her work. Is it possible to re-record with a more competent narrator? Haram.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but disjointed and hard to follow

This is a tremendously flawed and troubled character, and it is easy to understand how she has come to be as she is. This is not so much novel, or even short stories, so much as a piecing together. There are times that it is quite disjointed. There is no signal that the narrator is taking us elsewhere. She swings from one moment to the next and back again, and it can be disorienting. It feels like it could have been organized better. It is also tricky to follow the voice of the narrator because, at first she uses a more baby-like voice for secondary characters, but starts slipping into it with the main character, so it takes a while to figure out who is speaking. It may be easier to read than listen to.

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Relatable, rich story


This story is so fresh and realistic in its telling. The way the author writes the protagonist allows for a very long and nuanced look at a lived life – the many parts that make someone who they are as they grow. In real life, as in the story, the protagonist sees different setbacks and falls into old patterns. Meanwhile, so many traumatic instances from childhood and different past failures that inform current ones are being told.

My own lived experience with my mother was eerily similar to the fictional protagonists’. There was abuse that echoed my own very closely. I am a fairly privileged Southeast Asian woman who has always been heterosexual. Even so, in many ways, I identified with the protagonist consistently. In my own mistakes, in my journey, my relationships, etc.
While the character is frustratingly flawed, there are so many potential moments for redemption and hope. There is, in the end, that satisfying possibility as well. I enjoyed listening to this story, though I will agree that the narrator’s voice and accents were off-putting. The protagonist herself has moments where she makes incredible and horrific mistakes. Her mistakes, however, do not obscure her potential for redemption.
One other thing to address: I am glad to see a book that has nuance about first generation American citizens with immigrant parents. While there are many books out there that will gladly villainize Islamic and Arab culture, I am glad to see this was not one of them. While it is a part of her experience, it is not depicted as evil, monolithic, etc. The Middle East tends to be alluded to as a backwards place in a lot of places, but this book focuses on her individual experiences and proves that nuance matters.

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Great story, horrible narrator

I highly recommend reading this beautiful book. While I’m not queer there was a lot I could relate to as a Palestinian-America.

Unfortunately the publisher picked a horrible narrator. The narrator’s Arabic accent is horrific and nowhere near an actual Arabic accent. At times it sounded like a bad Eastern European accent.