The Map of Salt and Stars

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar weaves a stunning dual narrative about families, crossing borders and finding a new way home in her debut novel, The Map of Salt and Stars. After her father's death, 12-year-old Nour has returned to Syria from New York City with her widowed mother and sisters. Mama, who paints and sells elaborate maps for a living, is convinced the move was the right decision, but Nour feels lost without Baba and his stories. When the family's home and neighborhood are bombed, they become refugees, on the move throughout the Middle East with millions of others. Traveling from Syria to Jordan and across northern Africa, Nour's story unfolds alongside the legend of Rawiya, a young woman who apprenticed herself to a famed medieval mapmaker.

Nour sees the world in a swirl of colors and senses: Mama's voice is red when she's annoyed, and the dough she kneads for dinner smells golden. Joukhadar mixes Nour's synesthetic impressions with sharp, photographic images of destruction and loss, mapping her harrowing journey not by miles but by stories. Rawiya's adventures are equally compelling: as she and her companions seek to map the known world, they cover much of the same ground Nour's family will traverse centuries later. Both girls encounter terrors and challenges they never imagined, and both must find the courage to create new paths for themselves. Joukhadar's absorbing narrative offers a vividly particular glimpse into the refugee crisis and two unforgettable heroines united by their bravery and hope. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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