On Our Shelves Now
2018 NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION'S 5 UNDER 35 HONOREE
A fevered, lyrical debut about two young women drawn into an ever-intensifying friendship set against the stark, haunted landscape of the Sonoran desert and the ecstatic frenzy of New York City.
Ahlam, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli wife, grows up in the arid lands of desert suburbia outside of Phoenix. In a stark landscape where coyotes prowl and mysterious lights occasionally pass through the nighttime sky, Ahlam’s imagination reigns. She battles chronic fever dreams and isolation. When she meets her tempestuous counterpart Laura, the two fall into infatuated partnership, experimenting with drugs and sex and boys, and watching helplessly as a series of mysterious deaths claim high school classmates.
The girls flee their pasts for New York City, but as their emotional bond heightens, the intensity of their lives becomes unbearable. In search of love, ecstasy, oblivion, and belonging, Ahlam and Laura’s drive to outrun the ghosts of home threatens to undo them altogether.
About the Author
Hannah Lillith Assadi received her MFA in fiction from the Columbia University School of the Arts. She was raised in Arizona by her Jewish mother and Palestinian father. She lives in Brooklyn. Sonora is her first novel.
2018 National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Honoree
Recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature
An Elle Magazine Most Anticipated Novel
Praise for Sonora
"This debut powerfully evokes the sense of being an outsider."
—The New Yorker
"A kaleidoscopic venture for the senses . . . Sonora is an artful construction by a writer of wondrous talent."
—New Orleans Review
—The Brooklyn Rail
"Powerful... Sonora is a poetic coming-of-age story about friendship, identity, secrets, and obsession that will haunt you long after you turn the final page."
"Assadi writes poetically about the Southwest . . . a mesmerizing take on tripping blindly into adulthood."
—The Huffington Post
"Sonora is a paean to the vexing process of how a second-generation immigrant struggles to come to terms with herself and history."
—Christian Science Monitor
"Hannah Lillith Assadi's Sonora is a beautiful desert wind of a novel—wild, plangent and revealing. Fans of Denis Johnson will find in Assadi a similarly edgy and visionary writer. Both disturbing and touching, Sonora is a brilliant debut novel. Assadi is an exciting talent, and a writer to watch."
—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
"Sonora is the most eerie and unusual coming of age story I've ever encountered—not a tale of innocence lost, but of innocence never had. In a story steeped in sorcery and curses, Assadi looks to the heavens, wild-eyed and bewildered."
—Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody Is Ever Missing
"In Sonora, the underworld and the desert are always nibbling at the edges of the two young women’s reality, trying to save them or speak to them . . . Like the biblical tradition of passage through the desert, Ahlam emerges transformed. And so too does the reader."
"Sonora is as striking as it is unforgettable."
"With penetrating grace, Hannah Lillith Assadi details the intoxicating precarity of being young and alive and desperate to change. Sonora is unforgettable and deeply felt, the type of book that brings you close, infiltrates you, and leaves you with the sense that you've just lived an entire life."
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
"In Sonora, Hannah Lillith Assadi documents, with lyric ferocity, the agony, love, and bafflement of belonging to a family. A scorching story of youth and the losses and sorrows of growing up estranged."
—Ben Marcus, author of Leaving the Sea
"Assadi's characters are on a trip, as is their author, and Sonora, a pleasure to read, is both a beginning and about a beginning—an origin story for the writer and the reader."
—Donald Antrim, author of The Emerald Light in the Air
"Landscape becomes dreamscape in Assadi's evocative and provocative exploration of a world divided. Written with masterful artistry, Sonora is, in equal parts, a beautiful and intelligent novel."
—Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route
"Hannah Lillith Assadi's Sonora is a mystical and haunting landscape and she guides us through it with boundless grace and sharp, luminous poetry. This extraordinarily assured debut novel feels both old and timeless, like the desert and New York City, while remaining fresh and urgent and impossible to put down. Here we have a compelling cast of young and old, strangers and friends, lovers and family, immigrants and natives, as they try to find their place in a vast and complicated country."
—Robert Lopez, author of Kamby Bolongo Mean River
"Assadi uses her words like a painter, coloring the beauty of the desert with gorgeous descriptions of saguaros, palo verdes and bougainvillea."
"Unique in its portrayal of a Jewish-Palestinian family . . . [and] universal in its depiction of the quest for identity, for love, for belonging."
—Nimrod International Journal Online
"A lyrical meditation on the confusion and awe of growing up that is made beautifully strange by the desert's haunting presence . . . both typical and painfully, relatably fresh . . . Lyrical, raw, and moving."
"This poetic, multicultural novel will enchant younger adults or anyone who has ever felt out of place in the world."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
"Wise and poetic . . . Glimpses of the otherworldly abound, alongside an abiding interest in the cosmos, and Assadi’s lyrical prose nicely complements these preoccupations with the unreal or the ungraspable. The structure, moving back and forth in time and space, adds a sense of the magical to a sometimes tragic but always beautiful coming-of-age story."
"Assadi’s first novel is—like Ahlam’s dreams—fevered, fragmented, and impressionistic . . . lushly poetic . . . will interest those looking for a stylish read."