Mathematics and Olive Oil

Mathematics and Olive OilIn The Night Counter, Fatima is fixated on numbers and it is something that runs through the family for five generations.  She thinks about math when’s she’s cooking, too, as any woman who raised 14 kids probably would—how much to make for each one, how much it was costing, and so forth.  And how many bottles of olive oil to order at the Middle Eastern market is certainly something necessary to be calculated, much as her ancestors would have wondered each year how much olive oil their crops would yield.

Many people ask me anything in the book is autobiographical, and I can honestly say no, but there is a tendency for OTHER people I’m related to have a thing for math.  Me, I was flustered yesterday trying to help my 10-year old nephew with algebra I vaguely recall doing  in 8th grade, which was a long time ago for my brain cells.  But I had a good time with these math word problems with my seven-year old nephew, perhaps because they involve olive oil and pizza.  So if you need any word problems for the weekend, voila.

(And for those of you interested, the photo of olive oil here is of three olive oils from the West Bank, organic oil made under Fair Trade laws to help the Palestinians preserve their centuries old olive groves.   One is distributed by American Friends Society (http://www.afsc.org/mepepla/) and the other two are available at Whole Foods, believe it or not.  Politics aside, the West Bank produces pretty amazing olive oil because of the nature of its soil and landscape.)

Now back to Fun With Math (which I have adapted from a real math book for kids):
#1  OLIVE OIL

Fatima has a problem. For the last 50 years her neighbor Millie has been a very good friend and has entertained her for many hours with her silly jokes. Millie’s about to celebrate her 70th birthday and Fatima wants to give Millie something that will give her a taste of Lebanon.  She has prepared 40 bottles of her village’s olive oil of which she has promised her cousin Dalal half of her final inventory. She would like to give Millie 10 bottles for her birthday. If she wants to keep as many as possible for herself should she first give Dalal half and then give Millie 10 or should she reverse the order in which she gives away the bottles?

#2  PIZZA PARTY
Romano Pizzeria offers the following toppings for a standard large pizza: pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and sausage. In addition to ordering a plain pizza, you can order any number of toppings, even all five (which happens to be the “special”).

How many different kinds of large pizza do you have to choose from?

ANSWER TO #1

Fatima is a pretty frugal woman. She realizes that if she first gives Millie a gift of 10 she will be left with 30 bottles of which she promised half (30/2 = 15) to cousin Dalal.
40 – (10 + 15) = 15 bottles left for Fatima

If she would give the bottles away in the reverse order she would be giving Princess cousin Dalal half of 40 (40/2 = 20) and then giving Millie 10 as a gift.
40 – (20 + 10) = 10 bottles left for Fatima.

By giving Millie the gift of 10 first she is left with 5 extra bottles of her  fantastic olive oil for herself

ANSWER TO #2
You can choose from 32 different pizzas.  Here are the possible combinations: 1 plain, 5 with one topping, 10 with two toppings, 10 with three toppings, 5 with four toppings, and 1 with five toppings.

PENN, CHEESESTEAKS, AND BROTHERLY LOVE

A week ago I was in Philadelphia reading at the Penn Bookstore, my first East Coast stop.  I was pretty uncomfortable about Philadelphia, as it was a city I had no base in, so I accepted the offers of two friends to come down from New Jersey and New York for the event, bringing along their mother and boyfriend respectively. And maybe I had some Ivy League anxiety, too, as I had wanted to go to Harvard but was turned down not by Harvard but by my parents, who didn’t see why anyone should go in debt when a perfectly good education was available at the University of Minnesota.  So I finally got to make it to the Ivy League, and it turned out great, one day sufficing for the four years I missed.  Philadelphia was very supportive, particularly Penn and the group of young Arab Americans in NAAP (National Association of Arab American Professionals).  And people were so enthusiastic about books and the world in general when I was talking to them at the bookstore.  So I got to experience Philadelphia’s brotherly love.

You would have thought that Philadelphians I met in LA and other cities would have been anxious to recommend the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross’s house to me as I went off to their hometown—or even lunch at Reading Terminal or shopping around Rittenhouse Square or spending an evening on South Street.  But this is what they wanted to tell me about Philadelphia:  “You have to have a cheese steak.”

In fact, my friend Pat, who came down from New York, was able to get her boyfriend, a former Philadelphian, to come along for the ride by promising him cheese steak afterwards.   My other friend returned to New Jersey with a look that said “Cheese steaks? You’re going to go chase cheese steaks?” perhaps having eaten with me enough to know I’m not really the kind of person to go cruise a strange city for cow-related products.

I’d gotten numerous recommendations before I arrived in Philly to know that Jims, Geno’s, Pat’s are the holy triumphant of cheese steaks.  We asked the opinions of some people at the bookstore reading, too.  The bottom line:  Jim’s was inconvenient to get to, so go to the old Italian neighborhood and park near the park, as that is safest.  We got there between a misguided GPS and stopping to question a homeless guy at a gas station, who set us on the right path in exchange for a dollar (normally directions were free, he hinted, but his mom had died just that day, so a dollar would bring him some comfort)  Geno’s and Pat’s  are kitty corner from each other and nicknamed “ground zero for cheese steaks.” Pat decided we’d go to Pat’s not because of the shared name thing but because a student had told us that a couple of years ago Geno’s put up a sign  that said “This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING `SPEAK ENGLISH.”  As Italian Americans, Pat and her boyfriend were outraged that an Italian place would do this, so she refused to go there.

While Pat’s was more politically correct, the food seemed to be about the same–large and filled with beef that it would be a stretch to call steak, canned mushrooms, and Cheez Whiz, which I didn’t know they were still making.  The peppers and onions were the ingredients most convincingly derived from Mother Nature.  Greg savored every bit but Pat and I looked at each other and shrugged. We kept taking bites, waiting for the magic thrill to happen, but it never did. However, I marveled at the humongous cans of Cheez Whiz.  P1010636

There is much to love about Philadelphia—its shopping, its historical attractions, its educational and art institutions and yes its food, as in the stromboli and hoagies, but the cheese steak sandwich, I’m not so sure about it.  Maybe it’s like a nostalgia food, like tuna noodle hot dish, that you like more for the memories than the taste. As one young woman explained if you haven’t been drinking, a cheese steak is just cheese (or imitation cheese) and meat on bread and that’s not really such an exciting thing unless you’re starving or drunk.  Now if someone had mentioned Philadelphia Cream Cheese…P1010634

Penn, Cheese steaks, and brotherly love

Penn, Cheese steaks, and brotherly love

The Washington Post Review

It’s pretty cool to get reviewed by one of the book critics you respect the most.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/13/AR2009081303267.html

A SCHERHEZADE FOR OUR TIMES
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO 1,001 NIGHTS
By Carolyn See

Special to The Washington Post
Friday, August 14, 2009

Shaye Areheart. 365 pp. $24

Some people write about death, dying and tragedy as if they were death, dying and tragedy. Others — God bless them — just don’t carry the genes for drama or melodrama; they look at the world with all its flaws and suffering, and something about the situation strikes them funny.

First-time novelist Alia Yunis writes about the years after 9/11 and how that sorrowful event affected members of the ordinary, law-abiding Arab American community. She writes about wiretapping and FBI surveillance, as well as an old woman dying alone in West Hollywood, with no one to care for her but a grown grandchild, a hapless, unemployed actor. Yunis takes all this material and stirs it into an immigrant-ethnic cocktail laced with political oppression, but before shaking, she adds Scheherazade, the fabled storyteller who kept herself alive by distracting her tyrannical husband for a thousand and one nights.

Fatima Abdullah is 85 years old and close to death. She’s more than half blind, quite deaf and has trouble with arthritis, but her worst ailment is the systematic neglect of her many adult children. They call her every week or so but give her nothing except weather reports from where they live; they don’t want to tell her anything about themselves, and that’s probably wise. Fatima is not a very charming old lady. She’s repetitive; she gets things wrong, refuses to listen and obsesses on things her kids don’t care about: her mother’s old letters (even though she, Fatima, never learned to read), her wedding dress (although nobody seems to want it) and especially the old family home in Lebanon, which she hasn’t seen in 70 years. Which one of her children should she leave it to? (Her children, and the reader, know it would be a miracle if this house has survived the wars and bombing raids that have transpired through the years.)

Fatima is sure she is dying because for the last 991 days she has had an unlikely visitor to keep her company: Scheherazade. Strangely enough, she has been extracting stories out of Fatima instead of the other way around, but whatever way you slice it, there are only nine days left before death is scheduled to appear.

Scheherazade listens to Fatima fairly impatiently: Surely, she must have listened to thousands of tales of young women who came to America from their beloved old country only to find poverty, struggle, homesickness and disappointment. Fatima, while still a bewildered teenager, landed in Detroit, where her first husband worked in the car industry but died before their first child was born. His best friend, Ibrahim, dutifully asked her to become his wife. The rest of their children followed, each, of course, carrying tales to be told.

Some nights Scheherazade flies out on her carpet to see how things are going with the kids. There’s Laila, in her 50s now and still in Detroit, so fed up with the Muslim faith and the injustice of having to suffer breast cancer that she cooks up a mess of pork chops for the elders of the Mosque and passes it off as veal. Or Dina, a spoiled grandchild, who spends a summer at a refugee camp in Lebanon and realizes there’s more to life than cheerleading and makeup. Or Soraya, a successful psychic, who, 20-something years ago, visited a sperm bank so that she might have Amir, the gay grandson who’s taking care of Fatima right now in his West Hollywood bungalow. Or Randa, who lives in Houston, in dreadful fear that she and her husband will be recognized as being of Arab descent. Or Hala, the good girl who grew up to be a doctor but was imprudent enough to marry a Chinese man, thus incurring the wrath of both families. (And that match produced Brenda, a flaky high-school dropout whose hook-up with a black guy produced Decimal, who carries every kind of blood and every kind of allergy in her put-upon veins.)

Needless to say, with all their trials and distractions, none of these family members had anything remotely to do with the events of 9/11. But Amir, the gay guy and would-be actor who takes care of his grandmother, has been turned in to the FBI by a vengeful ex-lover, and the bungalow in West Hollywood is duly wiretapped and watched by a clutch of semi-delusional agents who are trapped in stories of their own devising. (One of them is a zealous woman named Sherri Hazad.) The agents investigate the daylights out of every member of the Abdullah family, but manage to misunderstand almost everything they see. (It doesn’t help that Amir keeps trying out for parts such as Jesus so that his costumes and long fake beard make him appear sinister, indeed.)

This is a plot-heavy book — I’ve left out several characters and events — and I can only say that when death comes, it does so in an unexpected way. But “The Night Counter” is also lighthearted, full of silly plays on words and comedic errors. In this easy-seeming way, the author aims, without being in any way preachy about it, to give us a short history of the Middle East and the Muslim faith in America — to say: Don’t be so quick to misunderstand us; we are, in so many of the ways detailed here, the same as you. She succeeds, very gracefully.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune and Other Reasons I Love Minnesota

Lake of the Isles

Lake of the Isles

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a great review of The Night Counter in its Sunday edition:
http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/books/52617702.html (Link also posted under The Night Counter Press & Reviews here)
But that is not the only reason I was excited to do a reading for Mizna (www.mizna.org) in Minneapolis on Saturday.  Minnesota has been a part of my life since I was five-years old and we moved there from Chicago, and I spent several of my growing up years there, as well as attending the University of Minnesota.   Back then, there were no sushi restaurants and luxury spas—in fact, I’m not sure anyone would have even known what those were 20 years ago—and one of the few foreign accents you heard were from my parents’ lips.  It’s a lot more global and trendsetting now, but it’s still mercifully Minnesota. The Twin Cities are notorious for their winters, but with some training and effusive enthusiasm, a very common Minnesota trait, they can be charming.  Still nothing beats a perfect summer day– sun, blue sky, shady trees, lakes, walleye-on-a-stick stands, and soda pop.  Here are some other reasons I like Minnesota:

1.    Everyone talks like me.  No one ever asks, “Are you from New Jersey or something?”  My slight Minnesota accent needs no explanation.
2.     When people say, “You have a good day now,” they actually sound sincere.
3.    To this day, some 40 years later, people still point out to you locations that appear in the opening credits of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” particularly the exact spot where she tosses her hat in the air.
4.    Multi-colored Mohawks and Mullets

Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis

Reasons I love Minnesota

Reasons I love Minnesota

never seem to go out of style here—they ebb and flow in number, but I always run into at least one or two whenever I visit
5.    People actually follow traffic signals and do yield to others, the Scandinavian stock here forever dominating the culture, and ja, that’s a good thing.
6.    You meet vegetarians who like to go hunting and ice fishing.
7.    There is a great respect for the Native Americans who first settled this area (although the poverty and disease within that community remains appalling)
8.    It’s one of the most-educated and/or most well-read places you’ll ever visit, whether you’re talking to a college professor or a pro-wrestler governor.
9.     You can actually drink the tap water.
10.    I’ve never had to question the loyalty or honesty of the people I’ve called friends here, even family friends that go back to grade school.

The Night Counter A Best Bet in Dayton/The Mother Daughter Book Club in Santa Barbara

http://daytonmetrolibrary.blogspot.com/2009/08/night-counter.html

Chaucer's Santa Barbara

Chaucer's Santa Barbara

The Wright Brothers didn’t write so much as fly, but pretty cool for the book to get such a nice mention in their hometown.

Meanwhile, I loved reading at Chaucer’s (www.chaucersbooks.com) in Santa Barbara last night amidst Fiesta Night traffic, and one of the great moments for me was when a woman in attendance told me that her mother-daughter book club had chosen The Night Counter as its next read.  This mother lives in Santa Barbara, but the other mothers and daughters, including her own, live in other cities and connect for their discussions via Skype.  Pretty cool. As was my friend Janice inviting a friend who turned out to have gone to the same high school as me in Beirut, but hers was a different time, the 50s and 60s, when the American expat community was so large it had its own neighborhood.

Updates: Book Soup and Christian Science Monitor And Entertainment Weekly

The Night Counter is still #2 Bestseller at Book Soup, thank you West Hollywood.  I should be blogging about San Francisco and Seattle, which have been awesome, but I’m waiting for photos.  Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+, which reminded me of my students when they say to me, “A B+?  Couldn’t you make it an A- It sounds so much better.”   And here is an excerpted review in the Christian Science Monitor, a paper that I grew up reading as a kid because our neighbor in Minnesota, Mary Ellen Fairbanks, had a subscription and used to tell us all the time, “If you want some legitimate international news, this is the paper to get.”  The review came out on Sunday, a day I actually spent with her two daughters in Seattle, whom I had not see in years and years.

The Night Counter

In a contemporary twist on “1,001 Nights,” a Lebanese grandmother spends her nights telling tales about her Arab-American family.

By Marjorie Kehe August 1, 2009 edition

The Night Counter By Alia Yunis Shaye Areheart Books 384 pp., $24

Scheherazade was the lovely Persian queen who kept herself alive for 1,001 nights by telling stories so enthralling that her murderous monarch couldn’t bear to behead her. So he married her instead. Fatima Abdullah, however, has neither Scheherazade’s narrative flair nor her seductive looks.

Fatima is an elderly Lebanese woman living in Los Angeles with her favorite grandson, Amir. She moved to Detroit from Lebanon seven decades ago and has since had two husbands, 10 children, and 14 grandchildren. At this point, she’s ready to say goodbye to all of it.

Or almost ready, that is. First, she must find a wife for wannabe actor Amir (blithely overlooking his constant insistence that he’s gay) and then arrange for him to inherit her beloved mother’s house in Lebanon. In the meantime, as the successful conclusion of that task drags on, Fatima is content to stay alive for another 1,001 days, spending each night telling her stories to Scheherazade. (Scheherazade apparently, has become immortal, and now travels the globe – beautiful as ever – hearing stories from others.)

Such is the premise of The Night Counter, Alia Yunis’s debut novel, the sweet, funny, meandering story of Fatima, her family, and the uneven process of their assimilation into life in America.

Not all of Fatima’s children, who now live scattered across the US, are entirely likable. In fact, most have disappointed her in one way or another. Her only living son, Bassam has spent much of his adult life on an alcoholic bender in Las Vegas, although the events of 9/11 have now shocked him into a promising sobriety. Several of her daughters have succeeded in pursuing what many would consider to be the American dream – but it’s not necessarily the course their mother would have chosen for them.

Fatima makes a grand protagonist – a somewhat befuddled yet strong, independent character who may have rejected much about the US, but sure loves American sports, particularly the Detroit Tigers. (“How could [the Tigers] get swept by the Twins,” she frets, “a team playing under a plastic bag on spongy cement?”) There is also a hilarious scene in which a special FBI agent trained in Arabic (assigned to watch over this “suspicious” Arab-American family with ties to both Lebanon and Detroit) tries to interview Fatima, who mistakes her for Scheherazade, offering her cooking tips and motherly laments which the FBI agent frantically parses for information on terrorist plots.

The Abdullahs are anything but a Norman Rockwell painting, but in their own way, they are a very typical American family. They may have their differences but they also have their stories. And, as Scheherazade points out, in the end, that’s what holds a family (much like a nation) together.

“Stories keep us entertained and enlightened,” she tells Fatima. “And if we don’t know the ending, all the better.”

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor.

The Night Counter Sells Out At Book Soup

Book Soup

Reading at Book Soup

With Paul And Scottwith Abbie

Book Soup and The Night Counter

Book Soup and The Night Counter

Thank you to everyone who came to yesterday’s reading at Book Soup.  You didn’t leave a copy in the store!  (More books are on their way)  When I first moved to LA many years ago, it was a terribly clunky move, with lots of test and trials that were not easy, in fact, often very painful.  One of my great escapes was of course the movies, even though it was the movie business I was often trying to escape.  The other was Book Soup, which a very long walk from where I was living at the time, and I liked that walk, even though my roommate said I was just asking to be labeled a tourist walking that walk when I could have just taken my car (small problem there being that someone had nearly totalled that car three days into my arrival in LA and it was out of commission for a while).  Book Soup is one of those bookstores where you can spend hours roaming around and looking up and down the walls at a truly eclectic mix of books.  In fact, aside from picking up The Night Counter, people at the reading also picked up an odd assortment of other titles, from quirky quick reads to oddly-themed coffee table books (David Lynch collection of people shot in shadows, anyone? Or how about the 600-something page book of Tom of Finland I stood next during most of the reading) that reminded me again of what a little oasis Book Soup is–and it is on Sunset Blvd. amongst all the famed clubs, shops and restaurants, so it also gives reading, so sidelined these days, a hipster kick.  It was extra sweet to read from the first chapter of The Night Counter, which is set in West Hollywood, just a few blocks (at least in my imagination) from Book Soup.

THE NIGHT COUNTER: NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER AT VROMAN’S

It really is true: http://hometown-pasadena.com/2009/07/vromans-bestsellers-7202009/

Of course, that probably will not be the case next week at Vroman’s, as there are no books left in the store at the moment.  But fear not, more are on the way.  The Night Counter’s sold out status at one of L.A.’s best bookstores—if not one of the country’s–is in part due to my amazing crew of friends who showed up and put the word out.  It was a great reminder to me of the many wonderful people who have been a part of my life in Los Angeles, and who have been the thing I have missed the most in Abu Dhabi.  As I saw the room fill up with all these faces—and faces I had never seen before, including new baby faces–I felt more than a little sad that I would soon be leaving LA again.   A friend on the east coast asked me if they were all writers and actors—nope.  Yes, they were there, sure, and good ones at that, I might add, but LA is also a place where you meet people who do all kinds of amazing things with their days—teachers, musicians, university program directors, engineers, TV reporters, journalists, studio executives, producers, bartenders, body guards, political activists, photographers, graphic designers, parents, accountants, linguists, stand up comedians, geophysicists –not in any particular order of importance.

(I felt a little guilty for all the traffic people had to endure to get there.  But no one seemed to complaining about the traffic.  It was all about the weather.  What weather, I thought.  Apparently they thought 90s and no humidity was hot.  Please, in Abu Dhabi, they call that winter.)

With Joan Johnson, one of my first LA writer pals (and a seasoned TV writer today)

With Joan Johnson, one of my first LA writer pals (and a seasoned TV writer today)

After the Vroman's Reading

After the Vroman's Reading

With Randa and Nizar

With Randa and Nizar

At A BOOKSTORE SOMEWHERE IN LA

A Bookstore Somewhere in LA

A Bookstore Somewhere in LA

Or How Not To Buy Your Own Book. The first day The Night Counter came out, my friend Natasha promptly bought it at Barnes and Noble in New York, and another friend did the same in Nashville.  So I thought I’m going to go buy my own book, too.   Just to see it in a bookstore, you know.  I went to the nearest bookstore and looked for it on the new books table.  It wasn’t there.  Nor was it anywhere around any hard cover books.  My heart sank.  It must have showed because suddenly there was a concerned store employee at my side.   “It should be here,” I boldly began.  “The Night Counter.  My friend got it in New York.  I heard it’s really good, and if New York has it, shouldn’t L.A.?”  I could feel my face turning red.  “Yeah, for sure…The Night Counter,” he said and started banging computer keys.  “Great title…hmm…I bet you it’s about someone counting nights as they go by.  What do you think?”  “Yeah, probably.  It’s supposed to be something clever like that,” I replied, turning even redder.

That’s when he looked at me carefully and smiled.  Oh, no.  In general, I don’t lie, as I can’t do it without getting flustered.  Nor would it be totally inconceivable for me to get flustered around a cute actor dude in L.A. standing in my personal space.  He was used to the latter, rather than suspecting that it was dealing with an author going undercover.  And there’s nothing like a flattered actor. “I’m going to find The Night Counter.  This just isn’t right.”  And he went off, with me in his wake, telling me about how he came out here from Ohio for this acting and liked meditating.   “I could just come back tomorrow,” I said.  “Really, it’s no big deal.”  “No, it’s supposed to be in the store, and we’re going to find it,” he said, with great actorly drama, almost running into a Japanese couple, clearly ESL students.  “Please, please, can you help us?’ the young woman said.  “I’m busy right now,” he announced.  “Looking for The Night Counter. What do you need help with?”  “We’d like to buy some books,” she whispered.  “Well you’re in the right place,” he nodded, and then we were off again, with him explaining I had good energy, just like him.  “Tell me you’re not sick of men with no energy,” he winked.  “Really I can come back,” I answered, my face turning redder because I kept thinking of all my hard work buried somewhere in this store.  “You know this book must still be back in the storage,” he decided.  “Just wait on me.  I’ll be back. Look at some books or something.”

And so I stared at all the other new releases that were all carefully and tenderly laid out.  Until my phone rang.  “I’m at the Barnes and Noble at the Grove.  The book has good placement, but I’ve moved a copy over to the Twilight section, so it gets more traffic,” shouted my friend Elizabeth, normally a refined, high-powered executive.  As I hung up the phone, my book knight appeared. “Ttill stuck back in storage, as I suspected.  The Night Counter by Alia. Yunis,” the actor beamed, handing my book to me with flourish. “You’re going to bring the others out, right,” I said.  “Soon, I’m sure,” he answered.   I wondered if he were on to me or just amused by increased flustering.  I prayed he wouldn’t look at the back flap and see the author photo and notice a resemblance, even without the make-up.   “You’re good people, seek out other good people,” he advised me, not opening the book.  “Me and you, we got those Midwestern roots.  We know good people.”  “Okay,” I promised, turning redder as I nearly crashed into the hard cover new releases.  “You know…um…you should put all The Night Counters out here in this new books section.” “Yes, indeed,” he agreed.  I backed all the way to the cashier, thanking him.  He seemed willing to chat more, and I suppose I could have chatted up the book, but at this point I was so horrified by my charade, I just wanted to pay and go.  At the checkout, the cashier checked my credit card signature with my signature on the receipt. But she never checked my signature with the author’s name.

I Love My Daily Candy!

Chocolate milk balls, black licorice, gummy bears…but today it was extra sweet: http://www.dailycandy.com/los_angeles/article/70636/Magic+Carpet+Ride

July 15, 2009

Magic Carpet Ride

“The Night Counter,” by Alia Yunis

998, 999, 1,000 ...

Little pigs and lost siblings make for decent bedtime story fodder.

But the life and times of Fatima Abdullah, the madcap matriarch of Alia Yunis’s charming debut, The Night Counter, is even better.

When the 82-year-old woman divorces her husband of more than 30 years, she leaves Detroit to live with her grandson, a struggling actor in L.A. Upon her arrival, fabled Arabian Nights immortal Scheherazade swoops in for the first of what turns out to be nightly visits, leading Fatima to believe she has 1,001 nights to live.

With nine days left, Fatima’s desperate to check the last things off her list: write her funeral instructions, marry off her grandson (P.S. he’s gay), and determine who from her dysfunctional (and disinterested) brood is worthy of her home in Lebanon.

As the four generations of stories and secrets magically unravel across America and the Middle East, you’ll be drawn deeper into the family’s touching, comical tale at every turn.

You can count on it.
Available online at amazon.com or at your local bookstore. Discussion and book signing, Sunday, 4 p.m., at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 East Colorado Boulevard, between North El Molino and South Oak Knoll Avenues (626-449-5320 or vromansbookstore.com). For more information, go to aliayunis.com.