Read The Language of Baklava: A Memoir by Diana Abu-Jaber Online


From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with herFrom the acclaimed author of Crescent, called "radiant, wise, and passionate" by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals, in turn, illuminate the two cultures of Diana's childhood—American and Jordanian—and the richness and difficulty of straddling both. They also bring her wonderfully eccentric family to life, most memorably her imperious American grandmother and her impractical, hotheaded, displaced immigrant father, who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children.As she does in her fiction, Diana draws us in with her exquisite insight and compassion, and with her amazing talent for describing food and the myriad pleasures and adventures associated with cooking and eating. Each chapter contains mouthwatering recipes for many of the dishes described, from her Middle Eastern grandmother's Mad Genius Knaffea to her American grandmother's Easy Roast Beef, to her aunt Aya's Poetic Baklava. The Language of Baklava gives us the chance not only to grow up alongside Diana, but also to share meals with her every step of the way—unforgettable feasts that teach her, and us, as much about identity, love, and family as they do about food....

Title : The Language of Baklava: A Memoir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375423048
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 328 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Language of Baklava: A Memoir Reviews

  • Mackey St
    2018-12-12 03:40

    It took me forever to read Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava: A Memoir simply because I never wanted it to end! I savored each of the stories, reading some of them twice, and tried many of the recipes that she shared. In fact, I loved it so much that after completing the e-book I ordered the hardcover to own. It's truly delightful. I needed to read a "food memoir" for a book challenge and chose this one because I could eat baklava forever and a day. I knew nothing about this book before beginning. Abu-Jaber is a Jordanian-American who lives in upstate New York surrounded by her incredible family who have come over from Jordan and her American mother - all who have the most fascinating personalities. Each chapter is a new story from her life revolving around her family told with such humor, love and delightful prose that you will feel as though you are right in the middle of tale with them. At the end of the story she shares a recipe that ties in with the story. For example, in the tale of the poor slaughtered lamb, and really even for PETA this is a must read, the recipe is not one for lamb kabobs as anticipated but rather for humanitarian vegetarian soup. Yes, that type of humor carries the day throughout the book. I simply cannot recommend this memoir highly enough and look forward to reading other books by Abu-Jabar.

  • PorshaJo
    2018-11-30 07:02

    Rating 4.5I enjoyed this book so much. If you love food, all types of food, then this is the book for you. The author tells the story of her growing up and how much food was a central part of her life. She grew up in both the United States and in Jordan and she tells wonderful stories of each of these times. Her father, Bud, is such a unique character and would be someone you would love to just talk to for hours on end. Food is extremely important to him and his family. The tales of the most basic meals are wonderful - the delicious sounding picnic in NY when the snow is barely melting outside is one that will stick with me. (It was done to show the neighbors a thing or two since they frowned on the family eating in their front yard)The book is a great coming of age story and within the book there are many recipes. I feel like I've been reading this one for so long but I've been slowly savoring the entire book, going back and reading the recipes again and again. It deals with multiple cultures and learning about them and immigrants in the US. A winning 'recipe' for me.Diana Abu-Jaber can tell a story and I've already grabbed another book of hers and I'm so anxious to start it. I'm looking forward to reading the many other books by her as well. This one has been a highlight for me.

  • doreen
    2018-12-07 23:34

    I finished Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava, which I checked out from the library, and I may have to get a copy of this book. It's a wonderfully written memoir filled with memories and food recipes, much of which hailing from Abu-Jaber's Jordanian heritage from her father's side, but some others that are pulled from other places.Much like Kim Sunée's Trail of Crumbs, which is another memoir mixed with recipes, Diana Abu-Jaber's recollections place a major focal point on the food, which is sensuously described. The recipes seem more attainable, and there are a few that are vegetarian-friendly. The people Abu-Jaber describes, especially her father, are shown lovingly, and I'm particularly fond of her Auntie Aya, the only daughter among many sons. The appearances she makes in Abu-Jaber's book are memorable--especially the conversation she has while making sweets with a teenage Diana on page 186 that I've included in my favourite quotes on my Goodreads profile: "Marry, don't marry," Auntie Aya says as we unfold layers of dough to make an apple strudel. 'Just don't have your babies unless it's absolutely necessary." "How do I know if it's necessary?" She stops and stares ahead, her hands gloved in flour. "Ask yourself, Do I want a baby or do I want to make a cake? The answer will come to you like bells ringing." She flickers her fingers in the air by her ear. "For me, almost always, the answer was cake."Seriously, best reasoning ever.

  • Diane
    2018-11-26 05:52

    I had mixed feelings about this book. When I first realized it was a book with recipes in each chapter, I thought, oh, no, one of those cooking books that are cutesy and vapid. But, no, it is a well written and delightful memoir of a Jordanian-American family with a high energy, outgoing father who loves to cook. The recipes are not the point of the book but simply seem to emphasize certain lessons in growing up in the author's culture. My favorite part was the year that the family spent in Jordan. I was really enjoying the book and then suddenly about 2/3 of the way through, it's like someone else took over the story. The book should have ended when the author goes away to college. After that it becomes labored, slow, and basically boring. Even her trip back to Jordan as an adult is close to unreadable. Where was the editor?? I would say, read it till you get to the college days. Then stop. You will have enjoyed a well-written memoir, felt absorbed into the Jordanian-American culture, learned something about middle-eastern cooking. But I know you won't stop and then it will be just another ho hum book.And, oh yes, the author's mother must be up for sainthood - I wish she would write a story about her.

  • Victoria
    2018-12-10 01:49

    I could not out this book down. It's basically a memoir of eating and living the Arab way, but it will strike a chord with anyone who grew up in a close family. I loved reading about Abu-Jabber's family adapting to the American way. The trips to the city and NJ and thr family time made me think back on the stories I've heard of how it was when my own relatives lived in that area. The recipes are part traditional part American and are allllll very do-able. I found recipes that I want to make and discovered things about certain dishes that I never thought I'd try. The few words on Gus becoming "Jiddo"made me tear up. I read about half of the book to my Mom because of how often I busted up laughing. This is a book I'd like to add to my own library, to pass around to my frirnds, to cook from, and to be inspired by. It's gooood!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2018-12-02 05:44

    To continue my continuous craving of Middle Eastern food, the memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber reads very similarly to her novels. You can see how family members she really has get woven into her fictional characters later on. Plus, this book has a bunch of recipes that I will hopefully get to try. Now I just have to sit and wait for her to write more novels! If anyone has recommendations for other books about people who live in two worlds (such as being of Arab-American descent) I would love to hear about it.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2018-11-13 23:35

    I love to read. I love to cook. I love to eat good, well prepared food. I love to read about people who cook.But the author apparently isn't a person who cooks, at least not beyond helping grandma or auntie make the occasional pastry. She never does the cooking. It's done for her, or she's invited to a meal cooked by someone else.The recipes are delicious, and a person with some cooking experience should be able to reproduce them--IF you can find the special ingredients. The author glibly stars things like sumac and zaartar and special cheeses and shreddable phyllo dough and says "buy in specialty shop." Meaning, I don't know--New York City? Chicago? Or, if you live where I do, London or Madrid or Barcelona, at the very least. If you don't live in a large city with a sizeable Arabic culture population, you'd better learn to make your own dough, and forget about anything containing other specialty stuff.The memoir itself claims to look back with longing on a happy childhood between two cultures--but it apparently wasn't. There's a thread of bitter anger that runs throughout the writing like grit in a cup of steaming black coffee. Some of the anecdotes read an awful lot like payback. She whines constantly...about being forced to leave her friends and go to Jordan, then being forced to return to the US, then being forced to leave her neighbourhood and move to the country, and then --how dare they!--her parents sell the rambling old house she hated to move to, and move somewhere else. At first I thought she disliked her bland American relatives and their bland American food--her portrait of her maternal grandmother is pretty dam' scathing, and her mother is portrayed as a non-person who just goes along with whatever her husband dictates. Ah, says I, she identifies more strongly with her Jordanian roots? No. She whines about those too. Her father is portrayed as a hapless goofball who drifts from one unskilled job to another, her uncles are shown as manipulative, predatory thieves who think nothing of diddling her dad out of his savings, while the Lebanese branch of the family are shown as filthy rich and privileged, but not the kind who share the wealth...yeah. She even manages to criticise her friends. The American ones eat "strange" foods like eggnog, and she keeps on about how her Jordanian childhood friends weren't very clean. Nice.I guess the authoress' problem is--she doesn't like herself. No matter where she is, or what she's doing, she wants to be somewhere else doing something else, with other people. I myself was a misfit in the place and among the people where I was raised. I myself skipped my junior year of highschool to go to college early. I myself chose to leave my birthplace and make a new home. And yes, there was some culture shock, but I knew early on that we make most of our own happiness or lack thereof by our choices. The authoress of this memoir seems to have been expecting someone, something, someWHERE to make her happy, without realising that she doesn't come off as the most loveable person in the world, either. I do intend to prepare some of the recipes. I do not intend to slog through the memoir again.

  • Liralen
    2018-11-14 01:37

    Abu-Jaber was a dual-culture child: with an American mother and a Jordanian father, she spent most of her childhood in upstate New York but a two-year (relatively brief, but formative) period in Jordan. She portrays her father as a larger-than-life character, eagerly embracing much of what the States had to offer while also hanging steadfastly to certain cultural norms.This is not the sort of book with a tidy start point and end point, or one about a definable thing that happens. Rather, it is a coming-of-age memoir about food and family and living between cultures. Just as children pick up languages more easily than adults, Abu-Jaber found it easier to navigate between cultures as a child—to slough off one and pick up the other as a child. As she got older, of course, she had to find more complex ways to manage her identity. I retain vivid impressions [of Jordan] worked into my body, she says, sharp and inexorable—the whiteness of the streets, the stone houses, the running children. These tokens have always been within me: the scent of mint in my parents' garden, the intricate birdsong, the seeded crust of the bread, and the taste of dried yogurt steeped in olive oil. All of it returns in my dreams. But when I deliberately try to reimagine it, it turns to dust (135–136).Abu-Jaber's mother is more of an enigma here than her father. Her father (and his extended family) bursts with energy and emotion, cooking up a storm and concocting one scheme after another. Her mother has it harder, perhaps: thrust into a culture that she did not plan to be part of, on the sidelines while her children adapt with ease. (There's a scene where she makes pancakes in Jordan—the neighbours end up referring to them as 'burnt American flat food' (38). Sadder, though, is the child of diplomats whose parents have taught him to shun/scorn the locals.) But then, despite her comfort with staying in one place, perhaps Abu-Jaber's mother is better equipped for uncertainty and change: This is the way she holds to things, lightly, knowing to let such stuff pass on and through. Neither Bud nor I can do this. We seize up, our insides tightening fiercely around our desires.... Better not to have dreams at all, I think in a surge of bitterness, than to feel this way. Better not to know what could have been (176).Anyway. So it goes. Wide-ranging and thoughtful and full of lush descriptions of food. Lots of searching for answers to questions that can't quite be defined.

  • Denise
    2018-12-02 05:58

    Thoroughly, completely charming.

  • Arminzerella
    2018-12-05 01:55

    Diana Abu-Jaber is a product of two very different worlds – American and Jordanian – and like her Bedouin ancestors, she’s comfortable moving from place to place. “Home” is a fluid concept held more in her mind and heart than a stationary place. Her childhood is a rich combination of Jordanian foods and flavors and culture which occasionally war against her American ones - or maybe it’s just that she doesn’t always see eye to eye with her Jordanian father. The Abu-Jabers spend a year in Jordan when Diana is young and it’s amazing how quickly she acclimates to her new environment. Within weeks she has a new circle of friends and playmates, and the Arabic language comes to her just as easily. Her reminisces are spun between recipes for the foods her father cooked for the family – the same recipes that Diana now uses to cook for herself.Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir was very satisfying. It evokes a vivid sense of place (wherever she happens to be – in America, in Jordan) and is told with humor and some sadness (nostalgia or yearning for all of the places she’s been, the people she’s known, and the things she has experienced). The descriptions of the food (even more so than the recipes) are enough to start one salivating. I love reading about other places and cultures and really enjoyed this memoir.

  • Bibliophile
    2018-12-12 03:43

    I'd never even considered making my own pita bread until I read the seemingly simple recipe in Diana Abu-Jaber's wonderful memoir The Language of Baklava. In beautiful, resonant language, and delicious-sounding recipes (well, maybe not the Velveeta grilled-cheese sandwich one!) Abu-Jaber explores growing up between the culture of her expansive Jordanian father and that of her reserved and calm Irish-German-American mother. I too grew up in a multicultural household (not Arab in my case, but South Asian) and her experiences and words really resonated with me; I can still remember the utter shock of coming back to the US when I was nine years old! Moreover, I'm totally smitten with this brief interview with her. She sounds like someone I'd love to hang out with (and maybe have her cook me a meal!) In the absence of actually being able to do that, I highly recommend The Language of Baklava if you like memoirs, Arabic culture, food, or really great and interesting characters.

  • Rebecca
    2018-12-08 23:36

    Culinary memoir, eh? Sounds like a winner to me. Actually, so much foodwriting is shamelessly exhibitionist, a shower of sensory description, a contest to see who can worship more lavishly at the alter of the edible. And a lot of memoir is distracted by the need to editorialize on one's journey. So culinary memoir tends to center on The Nostalgically Delicious and Impossibly Meaningful Meal of Yore. This author's story unfolds naturally, her vivid recollections of shared family meals in the US and Jordan intimately tied into her shifting sense of identity. Turns out she had been working on another project, not intending to write about herself or food at all. Err, my issues with genre aside, it's a beautiful book, funny and insightful.

  • Joyce
    2018-12-03 03:47

    "Laugh out loud" funny may be a cliche but I started smiling on page 1 and by page 23, I was laughing out loud. It may just be me ... see for yourself:"I am a hapless kid. My shirts are covered in food. I lose myself searching for four-leaf clovers and get left behind when recess ends. I look up from my hunting to find myself sprawled alone in a cloer field, a sunny sky full of white sailing clouds. I get lost on the way to school. I get lost on the way to the washroom. I get lost on the way home from school. I bring home children from other classes and tell my mother that they'll be living with us now."Did you laugh?

  • Katharine
    2018-12-12 04:38

    It's difficult for me to criticize memoirs. I mean, who am I to criticize someone's life recollections? Nonetheless...I didn't find this book very compelling. Maybe I know too many people who have grown up in multiple cultures and felt identity crisis. Abu-Jaber's life didn't seem that remarkable to me. She was creative in weaving the narrative of food throughout the book. The recipes left me feeling hungry but that was the extent of my inspiration.

  • Anne
    2018-12-08 22:58

    I learned that just because you have a mixed cultural heritage doesn't mean you have anything interesting to say about it or an interesting way to say something about anything.

  • Dana
    2018-12-07 06:35

    I did not find this book "vibrant and humorous" like the jacket claimed. I found it sad and depressing. Most of the stories were upsetting and I didn't find the humor in them at all.

  • Katie
    2018-12-11 01:53

    A memoir about a person split between two cultures--Jordan (her father) and America (her mother), largely revolving around food and how it relates to her, her family, and both cultures.I never get sick of foodie memoirs, and also books (both fiction and non-fiction) about culture clash. The author feels pulled in two directions throughout the book, and lives in both Jordan and the US for periods of time.Food is fundamental. Food is family, entertainment, and culture here. Food is the centerpiece around which all family activities revolve, particularly the Jordanian wing of her family.The central and most compelling person in this book is Bud, the author's Jordanian father. She writes of him romantically and lyrically, noting how he always seems distracted and looking off into the distance, unsure how to root himself in his adopted home. There's a lot of interest here, about fitting in, feeling like an outcast, and re-orienting your sense of self. I also found it interesting to compare and contrast the specific issues of feeling like an outcast due to culture clash, vs. feeling like an outcast due to regular teenage existence. Also, being embarrassed of your parents as a teenager... that happens to native-born Americans too, so how is it different? A matter of degree? Interesting to think about.

  • Özge Demirci
    2018-11-24 23:36

    There were so many things I could relate to in The Language of Baklava. Reading Abu-Jaber's story I had a chance to remember my memories that I thought I had forgotten. If you have more than one place that you call "home" you will relate to her story and feel that you are not the only one feeling that way. I am excited to try the recipes from the book. Such a rich and delicious book!"I miss and long for every place, every country, I have ever lived and frequently even the places my friends and my family have lived and talked about as well and I never want to leave any of these places. I want to cry out, to protest: Why must there be only one home!"

  • John Benson
    2018-12-11 00:55

    This is a memoir of Diana Abu-Jaber and her father from her childhood into her thirties. Her father was a very outgoing man who immigrated from Jordan and loved to cook. The book meanders through Diana's childhood as she tells stories of her childhood that centered around meals cooked by her father. There relationship could be stormy at times. With each chapter, she includes recipes for the foods that anchor the chapters. The story includes times when Diana lived in upstate New York and when she lived in Jordan both as a child and as an adult. A quite enjoyable book.

  • Debra B.
    2018-11-13 03:45

    This is the second book I have read by this author and it was just as good as the first (Arabian Jazz). Her descriptive ability is excelkent. This book was her first of two memoirs, and you really gather a sense of her struggle, and her father's struggle with identifying as "Arab-American". A very talented writer. Next I will read her second memoir, "Life Without A Recipe", which we will discuss in our next Book Club Meeting.

  • Dot
    2018-11-15 22:57

    I love memoirs about 2 cultures colliding. It's usually the adults who never adjust, the kids do well. And of course the Syracuse connection which is how I found this author. I admire teenager Diane who was not intimidated by her dad but pushed to have an American-style high school life. If you visit Euclid today Diane, it is the gateway to growth unlimited, Syracuse has migrated to Clay, NY.

  • Shelley Carr
    2018-12-01 05:40

    A thoughtful memoir of the author's experience growing up half irish, half jordanian in both upstate New York, and Amman, Jordan. Interwoven with recipes and descriptions of experiences through the food she eats ( or does not eat), I would consider this a food memoir. Prepare to crave middle-eastern foods, and try out her recipes, they are quite good!

  • K
    2018-11-26 06:58

    An entertaining read about food, family, and trying to fit into two worlds. The recipes sometimes didn't quite fit in with the stories to which they were linked, but they were cleverly named and did occasionally make a very poignant statement.

  • Roberta
    2018-12-01 02:35

    This book rings true, particularly in the sections that deal with the writer and her father in America. Her description of her single life in Jordan is less successful and felt a bit strained. The recipes are all very straightforward and even simple, which I found refreshing.

  • Terry
    2018-11-29 23:04

    I can't seem to get enough of Diana Abu-Jaber's writing...this is the third book I've read by her this year. He writing is poetic, musical, funny, and heart-pulling...and you'll definitely have a craving for Middle Eastern food! Looking forward to reading more by her.

  • Filip
    2018-11-24 01:00

    Wonderful, loved the recipes

  • Virginie
    2018-11-27 00:56

    Reading the world in books: Jordan.

  • Jill Blevins
    2018-11-17 05:02

    Such a beautifully written memoir of life growing up both/neither American and Jordanian. A love letter to her one of a kind gregarious father.

  • Kes Kanlaya
    2018-12-11 03:40

    Jordanian culture especially in food aspect through the eyes of a Jordanian woman who was raised by her immigrant family in the US. Very insightful and entertaining.

  • Bridgit
    2018-12-12 02:51

    Combines two of my favorite things--autobiographies and cooking. It was a gift from a friend, and I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. A really good read.