Toronto Palestine Film Festival

TPFF Reads with Zaina Arafat: You Exist Too Much

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Co-presented by Another Story Bookshop

Zaina Arafat moderated by George Abraham

Toronto Palestine Film Festival starts with an author talk and book launch with the critically-acclaimed Palestinian writer Zaina Arafat and her debut novel “You Exist too Much” moderated by poet George Abraham.

This captivating coming of age story, that has topped must-read lists, follows a young queer Palestinian-American woman as she moves between her life in the Middle East and the US, from youth to adulthood and her longing for love and a place to call home.

The event will be live streamed.

Zaina Arafat is an LGBTQ Arab/Muslim-American fiction and nonfiction writer. She is the author of the novel, You Exist Too Much, which was selected as a most anticipated book for 2020 by O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Morning America, Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Granta, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, BuzzFeed, VICE, Guernica, Literary Hub and NPR. In recognition of her work, she was awarded the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She holds an M.A. in international affairs from Columbia University and an M.F.A. from Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently at work on a collection of essays.

George Abraham is the author of Birthright (Button Poetry, 2020), and the chapbooks: the specimen’s apology (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) and al youm (TAR, 2017).

You Exist Too Much

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a twelve-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 United States and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—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 and obsessions with other people. 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.

Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love and a place to call home.

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Some of the raving reviews

"[A] provocative and seductive debut . . . Novels like these don't exist enough." ―O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 of 31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape This Year

"This story about love, identity, gender and family is brilliantly written and questions the effects of maternal love." ―Good Morning America, 25 Novels You'll Want to Read this Summer

"For anyone who’s ever felt their body or identity takes up too much space, this deeply affecting story of doubt and and love is a gut-punch and a solace." ―ELLE, The 30 Most Anticipated New Books of Summer

You exist too much,” a young Palestinian-American girl’s mother tells her, and the rest of the novel functions as a repudiation of that phrase."―VOGUE, 7 New Books to Read While You’re Stuck at Home This June

"You Exist Too Much tells the story of a bisexual Palestinian-American girl whose romantic obsessions and self-destructive impulses lead her to an unconventional treatment center called The Ledge, where she must reckon with the traumas that she has inherited from the places and people who raised her." ―Harper's Bazaar, 14 LGBTQ Books to Look For in 2020

"The unnamed protagonist of Zaina Arafat’s debut novel, a bisexual Palestinian-American DJ with literary ambitions, finds herself caught between several poles: her two countries; virtue and desire; family and personal ambition." ―TIME, 45 New Books You Need to Read This Summer


Most anticipated book for 2020 by O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Morning America, Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaa