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What We’re Reading
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I am currently reading Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson, a novel set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country about an Arab Indian hacker who pisses of state officials by shielding his clients, including Islamists and other dissident groups, from surveillance. Anyone who knows me would probably laugh at the idea of my reading a book that involves computer programs and I have to admit that much of the programming plot may as well be written in Arabic for all that I understand it. But Alif, the hacker, also becomes the unwitting protector of an ancient Persian text, which was dictated to a mystic by a jinn. At this point in my reading, there seems to be a possible connection between the secret code of that text and the secret code of Alif’s computer program, and it is that combination of the fairy tale with the modern, the mystical with the real, that keeps this novel fascinating to me.
Desiree Andrews (Assistant Editor, Tin House magazine): During this year’s workshop Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta was a hot topic. The fanatic response this book elicits is intense and appropriate, considering the subject matter. I read Eat the Document last summer and loved it so it didn’t take much to make me want to jump on the Stone Arabia bandwagon. Of course, I’m glad I did. I finally feel like I get what everyone is talking about. It’s a book that lingers. I find myself constantly pulling the plotlines and characters into situations in my life. At a recent show, I remarked to my roommate that “this band is just like The Fakes. Or sort of like the Fakes but if this band had a better drummer.” It’s really something I can’t stop talking about. Ask anyone. You should read this book if 1. You’re at all interested in music. 2. You like well thought out, tight prose. 3. You’re interested in structure. 4. You just want something really, really good to read.
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I just finished reading Padma Viswanathan’s The Toss of a Lemon. This book has been on my To Read list for two years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. Viswanathan’s central character, Sivakami, will stay with me for a long time. She is a young girl—wed at ten (to an astrologer in love with her horoscope) and widowed eight years later, the mother of two young children. Viswanathan’s novel is not short (over 600 pages), but she needs the space and she uses every word. Viswanathan delivers a rich world, in all of its complexity: India’s caste and class systems, superstition, views about women and personhood, and political and social change. Put it on your list—you won’t regret it.