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Call Me Zebra

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  317 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
A feisty heroine’s quest to reclaim her past through the power of literature—even as she navigates the murkier mysteries of love.
Zebra is the last in a line of anarchists, atheists, and autodidacts. When war came, her family didn’t fight; they took refuge in books. Now alone and in exile, Zebra leaves New York for Barcelona, retracing the journey she and her father made
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Vivek Tejuja
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Once in a while, there comes a book that infuses literature and life so brilliantly that you can’t help but reread it the minute you are done with it. That is what happened to me when I just finished reading, “Call Me Zebra” by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. I had to reread it. To experience the prose again, the beauty and sadness of it and to find comfort in the fact that there are people who seek refuge in literature, just like me.

22-year-old Zebra is the last one standing in the long line of
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pretentious writing style obscured what would otherwise have been a really touching story about a young woman coping with tragedy and growing up. Currently, I prefer to read authors who can communicate universal topics in simple, yet beautiful, ways. Van der Vilet Oloomi seemed more concerned with clogging up every sentence with literary references and a superiority complex rather than using language to convey the narrative. Regardless of whether that was the point of the book, I did not enjoy i ...more
Audacia Ray
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Zebra, the narrator, is a young Iranian refugee who decides to explore her roots after the death of her parents. She aspires to fully inherit her family’s “treasured roles” of Autodidacts, Anarchists, and Atheists. She is a deeply infuriating, unsentimental, hopelessly pretentious character obsessed with being a “literary terrorist.” And yet the book is very funny in a self-aware, pretentious way that quotes and mashes up lots of great literature.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
What did I just read? Why did I read it? What in me convinced me that I should persist and keep turning virtual pages and read on? I have no answers to any of those questions. I think I wasted my time reading this book and trying to figure it out. 

It's a book about immigrant girl and her father, they both left their home country and after hardships and troubles arrive in the New World. But it's not a 'normal' story. Main character is coming from a family of self-proclaimed anarchists, atheists,
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Why it got 2 ⭐:

⭐ For moments like this.

"What path leads to freedom? I asked. Any vein in your body, I answered..."

⭐ For the sheer bliss that came over me when I got to read the protagonist expound on powerhouse literary greats. The first third of the book was less awkward.

Why it doesn't matter if you read this book:

1. (Protagonist) Zebra = insane...and not in the cool, edgy, life affirming learn-to-face-your-demons sort of way.

2. Zebra is unlikeable. I'm tired of reading women who have incredibl
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5, rounded down. I find this one a tricky one to review. Van der Vliet Oloomi is a talented writer and I think she may very well be a genius - if not a genius, certainly incredibly whip smart and well read. Her main character and narrator, Bibi Abbas Abbas Hosseini (aka Zebra) shares these same qualities - smart, well read. Unfortunately, Zebra is also frequently maddening, frustrating, annoying and possibly crazy. I didn't hate her, but neither was she an altogether likable character. In fair ...more
Apr 02, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Can't decide if this is amazing & intelligent literature (it definitely is, in parts) or if it's too precocious for its own good. Feeling fizzled out on reading this one because the irritation is overriding the intelligence of this one.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting look at an Iranian refugee who is interested in literature, comes to NYC, falls in love, and explores her history. There’s a lot going on in this book which keeps you thinking. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
you either get this or you don't. it's better if you do. zebra is unconsciously unironic. she is both an unquestionable victim of exile and tragedy and an illicit manufacturer of drama. she is miserably elitist, but masterfully hyperbolic and communicative of a bestial, guarded, unstable femininity. she is impossible and outrageously capricious, an erratic and unrestrained lover. she is anarchic, alone, but singularly vivacious and galvanized by literature and the scholarly pursuit of her suffer ...more
Zohar -
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is a novel from this award winning author. This is the author’s second novel.

Zebra is a 22 year old woman, born in Iran to a family who took refuge in literature from the violent present of their time. Zebra is the last of the family which describes itself as “Autodidacts, Anarchists, Atheists”, and feels responsible to hold up the family’s literary torch.

After the death of her father, Zebra decides to retrace some of the places the family has been e
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The only character I liked in this book was the bird.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
What a tedious book. I can’t believe I finished this, but I did, hoping I would eventually enjoy it. Nope, it was a rough read and honestly, there was no ending.
I don't imagine this novel is for everyone but I devoured it. I had never heard of it but it came to me in the mail from my subscription to The Nervous Breakdown Book Club as the March selection. The author was interviewed on the associated Other People podcast, so I knew her background and that just put me right into her unique story.

Zebra is a character who is now burned into my brain. She was born in 1982 in Mazandaran Province, Iran, near the Caspian Sea. Her father, a multilingual translat
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
3.5 stars. Review to come
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful, mystical read with a humorous, witty narrator who makes you question an understanding of self, love, and all the borders we draw in our personal, public, emotional, mental, and physical lives through a love of literature.
Gary Moreau
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book, I admit, because it was so highly anticipated among the most informed voices of literature. I have grown wary of expert opinions of any kind, to be honest, so I began the book, I suppose, with some skepticism that it would meet the ‘most anticipated’ status it had achieved.

And I was wrong and the experts were right. This is a remarkable book. The prose is witty and the scenes and characters are developed to balanced perfection. More than anything else, however, it’s hil
First of all, I need to tell everyone who plans to read this that the audiobook is painful, so go with the printed version if you believe anything I have to say. Zebra (formerly Bibi Abbas Abbas Hosseini, AKA "Dame of the Void",) the main character, is quite a challenge, though she knows it so that makes her a bit more bearable. She was born, quite literally, in a library among the books in Iran early in the war against Iraq. She is the last in a long line of autodidacts, all of whom pledge to “ ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Incomprehensible dribbles on a page. Don’t waste your life!
Susie Wang
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Let's face it, this is a seriously weird book. It's like Freshwater but with literature instead of religion.

The thing with those two books, is that they were really intriguing at first, luring you in with their exotic and foreign settings. Then they start to spiral down a weird path when the main character starts down a road of certain madness.

Zebra is a unique character, combining cynical anarchism with some kind of insecurity. She hides behind "the mask of literature" because she believes she
Vel Veeter
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cbr-10
I wanted this book to be good. I would say better, but I was so annoyed as I was reading it, I couldn’t even muster up enough. It’s perfectly well written throughout most of the novel, but I started getting my early sense of the cracks. But I started to get really annoyed.

The book is a lot like a mix between Matilda and Exit West…so elements of emigre literature and statelessness and then the love and redemptive power of books.

But then, but then, the book goes out of its way to link itself to Do
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, 2018
I find novels about the interweaving of life and art fascinating, but Call Me Zebra felt somehow shallow, especially in the light of The Idiot by Elif Batuman, or A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume, two profound meditations on the subject. On the plus side, I thought the refugee aspect of the story was moving, and it sure reached its climax at the end. Nonetheless, I don’t think I can handle phrases such as “the matrix of literature” or “the grand tour of exile” ever again. Maybe it was just b ...more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm afraid I simply did not get this book at all. I was intrigued by the idea of a woman connecting to her dead parents and her heritage through literature, but I was just left confused the entire time. The references went way over my head, and the MC was just way too eccentric for my taste. I found myself sort of skimming most of it (which I NEVER do!). Also, I hate relationships in fiction where it's super clear the characters hate each other but still remain together. This might be a good rea ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sometimes you read a novel and you're left with more questions than answers or satisfaction. I think that's what the author intended here. I still don't understand why Zebra chose that name for herself. What was wrong with her given name? Did she really have no other family? Why had they not reached out to other members of the Iranian American community upon arrival to the U.S.? Did her father get the burial he deserved? My goodness. At times I couldn't tell if she was extraordinarily arrogant o ...more
Feb 06, 2018 marked it as to-read
On the list of 46 books by women of color to read in 2018.
Alice  Heiserman
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was extremely excited when I began this book due to the strong fast pace of the language, but there was no let-up, no growth in the character. The writing, like the character, became tedious. There are flashes of brilliance such as "I picked up languages the way some people pick up viruses. I was armed with literature." Basically, this story is about an ultra-intellectual female Iranian migrant and her quest to explore the world, but it's like a baked potato with too many toppings--too loaded ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I've seen this book cover many times - and it was because of the book's cover that I didn't really dig into what this book is about. Today, I finally read a description of it and have since added it to my TBR mountain! (there is this cover Call Me Zebra that appeals to me much more, but I guess right? You can't always judge a book by its cover!)
Helen Marquis
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
At the heart of "Call Me Zebra" is a heart-breaking story of a young Iranian girl, who flees her war-torn country with her parents, losing her mother en route. She settles in New York with her father, but when he also passes, she decides to head on a reverse pilgrimage, retracing the path via which she and her father escaped to their new life all those years ago. She returns to Barcelona, and gets involved in a pretty toxic relationship with a guy called Ludo.
Her luggage consists mostly of her f
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Call Me Zebra came highly recommended to me and I liked the subject.

A 22 year old girl retraces her life as an exile from one country to the other.... After she had lost her family she wanted to keep the "Hossieni" commandments alive and kicking and she takes a pilgrimage of exile through literature.

For the reader it is challenging book but for me, the book meandered along the various literary figures and gave me a pilgrimage of literature. Adorned with quotes and writings of Dante, Nietzsche
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Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi is the author of Fra Keeler (Dorothy, a publishing project) and Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She is the winner of a 2015 Whiting Writers' Award, a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree, the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, and a Fulbright Fellowship in Fiction to Catalonia, Spain.

Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, GRANTA, Guernica, BOM
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“That's life. You travel the world over, aimless, friendless, adrift. Then suddenly you find another rodent who shares the sorrows of your juiced organs. I felt as though he had ironed out the wrinkled sheet of my heart.” 3 likes
“the wheels of history are always turning and there is no knowing who will be run over next.” 1 likes
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