The Map of Salt and Stars, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

1. First lines. 2. Published 2018 Hachette; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an Imprint of Orion Publishing Group; Simon & Schuster 3.Sad girl [Public Domain] via Pixabay 4. Al-Idrisi’s world map [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
The story:

Two interwoven stories eight hundred years apart follow the journeys of twelve-year-old Nour in 2011, and Rawiya, a character in a twelfth century story. Nour is living with her family in Manhattan. Her father, Baba dies and the family moves back to their home in Syria. The family become one of many refugee families fleeing the country as it becomes embroiled in war. They journey towards the town of Cueta, a Spanish city in northern Africa, where a relative of their father’s lives. Rawiya also journeys through this area as a mapmaker’s apprentice, exploring and mapping the Mediterranean and northern Africa.


“… stories ease the pain of living, not dying. People always think dying is going to hurt. But it does not. It’s living that hurts us.”

“For the last two months, Mama’s always told us to avoid crowds. It seems like they pop up everywhere – crowds of boys protesting, people protesting the protests, rumors of fighting between the two. The last few weeks, they’ve gotten so loud and angry you can hear their singing and megaphones all through the neighborhood. Mama’s said for moths that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get you arrested – or worse. But just like in New York, keeping to yourself doesn’t always keep trouble from finding you.”

My thoughts:

Recommended for an understanding of the plight of refugees. The blending of the timelines is well done, and very engaging. It is a good story, cleverly constructed. Although some readers will love the detailed descriptions, and the myriad “wisdom” quotes, I found it somewhat cloying.

Book reviews:
  • New York Times:The Map of Salt and Stars is important and timely because it shows how interconnected two supposedly opposing worlds can be. Our many stories are part of the same larger tale, part of the same larger map.”
  • Kirkus: “Joukhadar plunges the Western reader full force into the refugee world with sensual imagery that is immediate, intense, and at times overwhelming.”
Other editions:

Jeyn Joukhadar

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