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The Wrong End of the Telescope (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Only what was narrated could be understood.

What a joy it was for me to come upon a book so special, Rabih Alameddine’s The Wrong End of the Telescope, his transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman's journey among Syrian refugees on the island of Lesbos. I loved the depiction of a trans character that was presented so matter of fact, and besides the setting of Lesbos and Lebanon, I of course loved that it was also partially set in Chicago! What I especially love about Rabih's writing is that each book is so different from the previous, both in content and style; I loved the intricate (but easy to follow) structure of this novel, where the author inserts himself as a character in the story, and where the overall narrative contains individual narratives of loss that build toward the story’s heart-wrenching conclusion. It is ‘about’ refugees, of course, but i loved that it was more about our collective losses, addressing the many layers of alienation, the many layers of trauma, we all face, whether it's from our family, our bodies, our country. And it’s also about the idiosyncrasies of being human, about being a stranger in a strange land, where "existence, in and of itself, was an accomplishment." And, of course, the book is not without its humor--it has the single best (and funniest!) chapter headings ever! A slow, quiet, thoughtful, yet gripping novel, Ed loved and highly recommends!

— Ed



By National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine, comes a transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman's journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island.

Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp's children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya's secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants' displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.

Not since the inimitable Aaliya of An Unnecessary Woman has Rabih Alameddine conjured such a winsome heroine to lead us to one of the most wrenching conflicts of our time. Cunningly weaving in stories of other refugees into Mina's singular own, The Wrong End of the Telescope is a bedazzling tapestry of both tragic and amusing portraits of indomitable spirits facing a humanitarian crisis.

About the Author

RABIH ALAMEDDINE is the author of the novels The Angel of History; An Unnecessary Woman; The Hakawati; I, the Divine; Koolaids; and the story collection, The Perv. In 2019, he won the Dos Passos Prize.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802157805
ISBN-10: 0802157807
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: September 21st, 2021
Pages: 368
Language: English
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