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Hala Alyan quotes Showing 1-30 of 34

“What is a life? A series of yeses and noes, photographs you shove in a drawer somewhere, loves you think will save you but that cannot. Continuing to move, enduring, not stopping even when there is pain. That's all life is, he wants to tell her. It's continuing.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“The sea was like another member of the household, a recalcitrant child at times, a soothing aunt at others. She crooned them awake; she crooned them to sleep. Everywhere, there was the smell of salt.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“She still loves him. This is the fact she wakes up to each morning. She checks it, sometimes, a tongue probing an aching tooth, making sure it still hurts.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“Nostalgia is an affliction. Life a fever or a cancer, the longing for what had vanished wasting a person away. Not just the unbearable losses, but the small things as well.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“Motherhood doesn’t suit me, she once confessed to Budur, drunk. I don’t have the stomach for not knowing what comes next.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“So they’ve seen their parents up close, as one does with statues in Florence. The cracked toes and chalky masonry.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“Parallel lives, she sometimes thinks. It was a matter of parallel lives, one person having lamb for supper, the other cucumbers. With fate deciding, at random, which was which.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“Atef wants to tell his children that they don’t understand, that their view from the sidelines is incomplete, that somehow in the murky cave of his marriage—not exactly happy but not unhappy either, given to strain, months at a time when Alia retreats into her fury and Atef into himself—is a miraculous conch of love, something unpolished but alive, pulsing.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“America wasn’t like that. You became what you coveted. Memories were short. She met Mexicans, Germans, Libyans, who spoke accented English but responded, From here, whenever asked. Souad became brown. People’s eyes glazed over when she tried to explain that, yes, she’d lived in Kuwait, but no, she wasn’t Kuwaiti, and no, she had never been to Palestine, but yes, she was Palestinian. That kind of circuitous logic had no place over there.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“What is a life? A series of yeses and noes, photographs you shove in a drawer somewhere, loves you think will save you but that cannot. Continuing to move, enduring, not stopping even when there is pain. That’s all life is, he wants to tell her. It’s continuing.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“But he loves the mosque for its dusty smell, for the carpet prickling his feet, for the predictable hum of the muezzin more than anything celestial.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“recognizing in that moment that there were some things we are meant to keep for ourselves, too precious to share with others. She”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“It was Time, whirling her along, spinning, spinning, until it finally stopped, and she looked around, blinking, and she was thirty-two.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“How badly she wanted to shake her eldest and cry out that you don’t have to marry the first person who likes you or who says he’ll take you away.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“When you call my name,” Souad yells, and the children erupt in laughter, even Manar. And her heart, her heart, rising with the sound. These are her loves. The hope returns. That treacherous hope, which rises and falls, she can taste it on her lips like salt. She will fix it. She will fix it all.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“It started off as ordinary, a little boy fretting. Abdullah asked only Riham, who’d become Mama, soothing him when he woke from nightmares. She didn’t tell Latif; it never occurred to her there was something bigger, that Abdullah would put things together, connect dots to form a chilling picture. The anger came later.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“He can feel their eyes upon him. Poor innocent things, he thinks. What is a life? A series of yeses and noes, photographs you shove in a drawer somewhere, loves you think will save you but that cannot. Continuing to move, enduring, not stopping even when there is pain. That’s all life is, he wants to tell her. It’s continuing.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“When Salma peers into her daughter’s coffee cup, she knows instantly she must lie.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“She feels the anger quiet into a briny resentment. The bitterness floats like an inkblot in her mind’s eye.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“I burned his emails / this is not a metaphor”
Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
“She winds her hair into a bun, tilts her long neck back, and parts her lips. It is like watching someone paint the sky.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“The Victorians had it right: a woman will be as small / as the world needs her to be. But you already knew that, didn't you.”
Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
“Marriage is sweeping the floors of a room you're not sure you want to die in.”
Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
“You made me up, all heels and mascara. You love the instrument you refuse to play.”
Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
“I've been working on the same joke for years. The punchline is you were happy all along.”
Hala Alyan, The Twenty-Ninth Year
tags: poetry
“Mustafa and Atef have joined the men by the fig tree..... Soon, there will be an argument; there always is. Blisters of rage, which must be drained. And the women, intimate with such scenes, will rise wearily, go to their husbands or brothers or fathers. Speak to them in soothing voices.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“grandmother’s building. When she was in bed sometimes, her small heart pounding just before she fell into sleep, she felt an endless plummet, as though someone had pushed her. Her fear had something to do with not being able to breathe, her mouth filled with water, with some enduring want. A suffocation. It was something like pursuit, something like not being fast enough.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“It fascinates Manar—not just history”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“The world was addicted to watching; over and over, they were reborn, made whole and silver and resplendent, only to crumple into themselves again. Each time felt like the first time, the destruction so immense it bordered on the majestic. Souad watched the dust-fogged streets, people’s panicked faces as they shrieked for those they loved. She felt her heart move with the shaking cameras. Smoke and fire spilled from the buildings like blood from a gunshot wound, and people began to jump, their little bodies unreal as they lurched from the sky, dolls in someone’s nightmare. One”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
“where your father was from. America wasn’t like that. You became what you coveted.”
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses

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