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3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,967 Ratings  ·  288 Reviews
An unforgettable tale of food, feelings and geography, CRESCENT is a love-story explored in all its complicated glory and heartbreaking sadness.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 7th 2004 by Pan MacMillan (first published April 1st 2003)
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Chocolat by Joanne HarrisLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. SeussFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Food-Related Fiction
38th out of 419 books — 517 voters
The Joy Luck Club by Amy TanThe Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriThe Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniThe House on Mango Street by Sandra CisnerosInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Immigrant Experience Literature
206th out of 615 books — 928 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 12, 2015 Skip rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A forty-year old chef, half American-half Iraqi falls in love with an Iraqi-exiled professor. The book is set in the Arab-American community in Los Angeles, and dances around some very complex family dynamics, love, and Arab culture. I found the book to be very slow at times, but liked the focus on Arab food/recipes and the differences highlighted among various Arab cultures. Chef Sirine and Professor Hanif made some poor decisions. Also, I found the Arab fable at the beginning of each chapter t ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
This book's description of Arabs, particularly students and academics, who live in the diaspora is heartbreakingly accurate. Abu-Jaber's descriptions are both intense and palpable. Just as you can taste the mujadara, so too can you feel the homesickness of the characters. Most are suffering from the type of homesickness that anyone plucked from their native home and transplanted into a foreign land would suffer. Sirine, the protagonist, suffers from a different kind of homesickness. Hers is a co ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Sunshine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: other halfies, other middle easterners in america
This book gets an extra star (its fourth) for telling a story of a fair, blond iraqi-american woman born and bred in L.A., working an Arab kitchen in Tehrangeles.

There are few, very few, pieces of fiction of second-generation arabs/persians/muslims in the states. (lots of memoir, yes, - and some crap, like roth's lovely little take - but very little fiction) So this gets extra points for filling a deep whole on the shelf. Also gets that extra star for repping us halfies! Another deep hole on my
Sep 25, 2010 Serene rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
At the end of my edition of this book was an interview with the author, and she confesses her model for her novel was the Shakespearian play, Othello. I think that is the key to the problems I had with the book - characters undertaking dramatic actions for no apparent reason and having all the secrets behind their motivations only revealed at the end. Worked for Shakespeare, but I'm not so sure if it works for a modern novel. I wanted to know why, for example, Sirine was so enchanted with Hanif ...more
Sep 05, 2011 Gizmology rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent. Absolutely divine -- subtle, multilayered, nuanced, politically-set, lyrical, bewitching, compelling and *delicious* fiction from an author who teaches down the road from me at PSU. I've seen her name for years, probably passed her in the halls of the lit dept., but somehow never gave her a try until just this week -- thank you, Annie Bloom's, for your "Northwest Writers" shelf! All I can say in the thirty seconds I have left is: it's got mystery, family, politics, tragedy, romance, ...more
Ronya Misleh
I really enjoyed this one. Abu-Jaber did a great job infusing Arab culture (language, art, food, poetry) into a story set in LA. The love story, too, was refreshing--the characters were much older. It was interesting to me because an unmarried Arab woman in her late 30s is not generally someone who is looked upon with as much awe and respect as was Sirine. Like others, I was not a fan of Abu-Jaber's structure and thought that the fable that continued from the beginning of one chapter to another ...more
Nov 19, 2010 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. Now I would like to read other books by this author. Loved the characters - some were quirky, some mysterious, all believable. Sirene is in her late 30s, the daughter of an Iraqi father and American mother. She works as a cook in an Arab restaurant in Los Angeles. Following the death of her parents, she was raised by her uncle, a wonderful man who likes to tell stories. So intertwined with the story of Sirene is a fable made up by her uncle about s ...more
May 19, 2015 Renata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, grownup
Mostly this made me super hungry. I wish Nadia's Cafe delievered!! But also it was an enjoyable romance (that didn't end with a baby, yayyy) with some social commentary, myth, and history. And recipes!
Oct 24, 2007 Camas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit it, I'm such a design whore that I have a hard time NOT choosing a book by its cover. Sometimes I really luck out, as was the case with this PSU professor's book. A beautifully written, intensely rich and evocative book about love, family, food, and finding your place. Which is a really crappy description but somehow accurate.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: foodie, read06
Sirine, almost 40, tries to come to terms with her cultural background (her father was Iraqi), and also tries to understand an Iraqi expatriate professor that she starts to fall in love with. With many references to the cooking of the Middle East (I love foodie lit!).
OK. So. This is the blurb on Amazon:

"Sirine is thirty-nine and a breathtaking golden-haired beauty. Half-Iraqi and half-American, she was raised in Los Angeles by her Iraqi-born uncle -- a professor at the local university and an endless source of fabulous tales of jinns, sheiks and Bedouins -- after her aid-worker parents were killed in Africa. An exquisitely gifted cook at Cafe Nadia, where homesick Middle Eastern ex-pats collect to drink coffee and savour her perfectly spiced food, Sirine is
Oct 12, 2007 Taina rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to read something on an airplane
Again, this book proves that it is possible to take a cheesy romance novel and pad it up with talk of food and the political situation, making it readable, but never more than that.
Apr 25, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it
Beyond the DELICIOUS food stuff, this book really changed the way I thought about what it means to live in exile. Compelling all the way through, which is rare.
Pamela Pickering
Aug 04, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it liked it
Shelves: chick-lit
I'm a little conflicted on this one and I'm not sure why. (Okay, I know why in some ways because I just wanted to throw the book across the room and yell AARGH!) The writing style was a little different. It was as if each noun required a descriptor (a little annoying at first). After I got the rhythm of the writing it went a little quicker. At some times I felt really invested in the characters (the writer wrote a passage regarding the lead character, Sirina, that seemed to be written about me) ...more
Jun 05, 2011 LadyKT rated it it was amazing
You have to read this book. I'm sure you hear this all the time, but honestly, you have to read this book. It was a class assignment in my college class Magical Realism and Women Studies. I liked the books I read in that class, but this is the only one I have kept and read and reread over the years. This book is truly magical. Sirine is unmarried, over 40 cook in a small middle eastern restaurant leading an uneventful life and living with her Uncle. An orphan, she lives in her own little bubble ...more
I spent much of my time reading this novel in a sensory haze. The writing herein is plush, evocative, and sensuous. Sirine, Han, Nathan, and Aziz aren't always likable, but they exist on so many dimensions that we forgive them their flaws. The story, which might have been soap-operatic in less capable hands, is intricate, complex.

One passage of particular interest to me, from both a narrative and feminist standpoint, comes when Sirine stumbles across some candid photographs of her and Han toget
I liked everything in this book except the love story, which I thought was rather slow moving. I didn't fully understand why an Iraqi professor who is a famous translator, would fall instantly in love with a 40 year old half-Iraqi woman brought up in LA, who has spent her somewhat sheltered life with her uncle & the staff of the Lebanese cafe where she works as a chef.
But I think the love story was secondary to the different stories of loneliness. Whether they are exiled from a country or f
Isla McKetta
Feb 09, 2014 Isla McKetta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you just want a book that's easy to read, interesting, and incredibly well-written. This book hits all three marks. Read the full review on my blog to find out how I learned a little about the Iraqi-American culture, fell in love with Sirine and Han, and developed a wicked craving for lentils.
Luna Selene
Mar 15, 2011 Luna Selene rated it did not like it
I'll be thoroughly honest, it took a lot of effort to finish this book. I really had to push through it. I found too much of it contrived, and I really only got through it by the little chapter-opening stories, which turned out to be just as contrived in the end. The "love story" in this book quickly became overbearing, so much so that I generally became annoyed with the constant appearance of Hanif. I just really wasn't impressed by not only the writing, but the development of the story, and I ...more
May 13, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The prose of this book is mesmerizing, and the combined narratives intertwine to give a sense of an ancient, mythological world informing a modern life being built in Southern California. The sympathy for and explanations of the cultures and people from various Muslim countries give insight into the lives of people far too many of us do not interact with. The descriptions of food are lavish, and the overall sensuality of the work, with descriptions also of smell, touch, sights, music and other s ...more
Nov 07, 2014 A.M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
What a beautifully written book - and achingly beautiful love story. I thoroughly enjoyed Crescent - a sweet, at times sad, at times funny tale of life and love told from the perspective of Middle-Easterners living in Los Angeles.

The novel centers on Sirine, a half-American/half-Arab chef at a small Lebanese cafe in a primarily Persian and Arab-American community who has grown up in the United States and falls in love with an Iraqui exile. It has just enough intrigue to keep the reader page-tur
Jan 30, 2011 Marlowe rated it it was ok
This book was highly recommended and rated well, but I found the main character to be totally uninteresting. Well, she liked to cook, but that seemed to be all. She cooked lamb ... a lot. If you like reading about uninteresting people cooking lamb, read this book. Some other stuff happened too, but it wasn't interesting either.
Jul 23, 2007 Clare rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who lke food better than sense
Shelves: blockbookgroup
This was the first book I read for my block's book group, and what an inauspicious beginning it was. The intertwined stories were meandering and dull. The heroine had nothing interesting to say, nothing that made me care about her relationships or life whatsoever. Some of the recipes sounded pretty good, though.
Susanna Natti
Apr 23, 2015 Susanna Natti rated it it was amazing
Diana Abu-Jaber's writing captivated me; all my senses were engaged. This is a love story, and I've been trying to find a different way of describing it because that is too limited a label. The richness of the relationships and characters in this novel are what make it sing - how refreshing to have a deep and passionate love affair unfold without tired and cliched sex scenes. Set in an Arab-American neighborhood in LA in the 1990's, the main characters are Sirine, a fabulous chef raised by her I ...more
With a mash-up of telenovela and framed-stories genres, Crescent is a book for those who are patient. Having said this, I'm not at all suggesting that this book is boring and stretched like telenovelas or never-ending like framed-stories. This is a novel that has the combination of style, imagination, wisdom, and meta-commentary.

In this novel, we encounter Sirine, a 39-year old Arab-American woman who doesn't really see herself as an Arab-American woman when the novel begins. She has the signat
Corianne Rice
Mar 06, 2016 Corianne Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of my all-time favorite books. I have lent this book to so many people because I want them to read it! It's a love story, but it's also a story about finding out who you are. Sirine, the main character, is half Arab, half American, and blonde. She was orphaned as a child and raised by an uncle in Westwood, CA (next to UCLA). To complicate matters even more, she works at as a chef at a Lebanese restaurant in Westwood, where she ends up listening in on conversations of college students, many o ...more
Dec 13, 2015 Laura added it
Shelves: book-club, dnf
To be fair, I won't rate this. Perhaps it's the most wonderful book in the world. But when I can't get past Page 50 after 5 tries, I have to give up on it. I couldn't connect to this book at all.

On to the next one.
Oct 12, 2008 Kendall rated it really liked it
A well written but less than compelling story.
Genine Franklin-Clark
Aug 17, 2012 Genine Franklin-Clark rated it really liked it

A lovely, sad, joyful lyrical, sensual read.
Mar 30, 2015 Beth rated it it was amazing
Sirine, of half Iraqi descent but raised by her Iraqi uncle in the U.S., fills her life preparing delicious Arab food as a chef in a small Arab restaurant in Los Angeles. She meets and falls in love with an Iraqi exile, but she must know more about his past which has a strong hold on him.

4 stars or 5? I'm rounding up on this one. I enjoyed this book even though all signs would point me away from it--I didn't have much in common with the protagonist, I don't normally read love stories, I don't sh
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Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of Origin, Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. Her writing has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, the New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. She divides her time between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

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“...tasting a piece of bread that someone bought is like looking at that person, but tasting a piece of bread that they baked is like looking out of their eyes.” 11 likes
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground” 11 likes
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