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Diana Abu-Jaber

Author of Crescent

10+ Works 2,014 Members 89 Reviews 4 Favorited

About the Author

Diana Abu Jaber teaches at Portland State University.

Includes the names: Diane Abu-Jaber, Diana Abu-Jaber

Image credit: At home in Miami / Scott Eason

Works by Diana Abu-Jaber

Crescent (2003) 627 copies
The Language of Baklava (2015) 401 copies
Origin: A Novel (2007) 370 copies
Birds of Paradise (2011) 246 copies
Arabian Jazz (1993) 192 copies
Fencing with the King (2022) 69 copies
Silverworld (2020) 33 copies

Associated Works


adoption (13) American (10) American literature (12) anthology (15) Arab American (30) Arab Americans (13) audiobook (11) biography (13) contemporary fiction (12) cooking (38) ebook (12) essays (19) family (26) fiction (238) Florida (13) food (74) friendship (19) immigrants (15) Iraq (20) Jordan (29) library (11) literature (11) Los Angeles (20) love (12) memoir (86) Miami (12) Middle East (33) mystery (55) New York (14) non-fiction (78) novel (29) own (13) read (24) recipes (14) romance (11) Syracuse (15) to-read (163) unread (22) wishlist (12) women (19)

Common Knowledge



Fencing with the King
Author: Diana Abu-Jaber
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Company
Publishing Date: 2022
Pgs: 300
Dewey: F ABU
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX
The King of Jordan is turning 60! How better to celebrate the occasion than with his favorite pastime—fencing—and with his favorite sparring partner, Gabriel Hamdan, who must be enticed back from America, where he lives with his wife and his daughter, Amani.

Amani, a divorced poet, jumps at the chance to accompany her father to his homeland for the King’s birthday. Her father’s past is a mystery to her—even more so since she found a poem on blue airmail paper slipped into one of his old Arabic books, written by his mother, a Palestinian refugee who arrived in Jordan during World War I. Her words hint at a long-kept family secret, carefully guarded by Uncle Hafez, an advisor to the King, who has quite personal reasons for inviting his brother to the birthday party. In a sibling rivalry that carries ancient echoes, the Hamdan brothers must face a reckoning, with themselves and with each other—one that almost costs Amani her life.

With sharp insight into modern politics and family dynamics, taboos around mental illness, and our inescapable relationship to the past, Fencing with the King asks how we contend with inheritance: familial and cultural, hidden and openly contested.
Historical Fiction
Middle East
The Feel:
Has the feel that this is going to be more of a cerebral read, less action. Even with the falcon mistaking her for a sheep or whatever. Do falcons in the wild attack sheep? Seems a large target for a bird of prey.

Least Favorite Character:
Uncle Hafez gives off very strong Snidely Whiplash vibes. Hafez is a spoiled brat who wants what he perceives as being owed to him. Add in his lust for power and we're probably into psychopathy territory. "Hafez, why do you so often make me feel I'm about to buy a really terrible car?" This shows his character in the observation of the head priest more than anything else so far. This is how other people perceive him. And absolutely not how he wants to be perceived.

Favorite Scene:
The falcon attack scene was great. Could've been longer.

Hmm Moments:
So, she's telling familial myth compounded into literary fiction. That sounds cool.

Historical familial fiction, I wonder how much is fiction.

Amani reaching out to Hafez doesn't track when she has already been shown that Hafez isn't trustworthy. And she has already fallen into the trap of not realizing who Musa is. Hell, Hafez is probably behind the clearing of the cave dwellers. Wonder if his surprise is genuine about Musa being alive.

Calling the Ball:
Hafez is slimy. And everyone seems to realize that he is slimy except for Amani and Gabe.

A death bed promise, an unwanted honor, and honoring it put Gabe squarely in the middle of Hafez's inferiority complex and envy.

The Unexpected:
"I've been fighting...to bring my mind into focus somehow--in the right way. Sometimes I really truly think I don't know how to write anymore. Really--I think I never did." I didn't expect to be stabbed by a description of my own writer's block in this book.

So, I Was Right:
Hafez is spiraling. Hafez did something to Musa? Wasn't he too young at the time? They would both have been children.
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texascheeseman | 2 other reviews | Nov 30, 2022 |
For more reviews and bookish posts visit https://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber tells of an American woman visiting, and discovering things about, her prominent Jordanian family in preparations for the King’s birthday celebration. Ms. Abu-Jabar is an award-winning author and writer living on Florida and Oregon.

Amani is joining her father to celebrate the King of Jordan’s 60th birthday. Her father, Gabe, fenced with the King and is invited for a demonstration.

A published poet herself, Amani finds a poem her grandmother, a Palestinian refugee from the Ottoman Empire, wrote. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she discovers family secrets which have been tucked away for decades.

This book has a lot going for it, good writing, cultural appreciation of Jordan (politically and familial), a bit of history, as well as a good story. I have to admit that I didn’t see where this book was going, until the last quarter, which is always nice.

One of the reasons I enjoyed Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber is because both the culture, as well as the real-life figures which are hinted at, are familiar to me. I’ve lived in Israel so the food, people, attitude, and certainly the political climate are not a foreign concept.

Every once in a while, I got confused with the whose who in Amani’s family. It’s a large cast, with cousins galore and I found myself trying to figure out what’s the relations. However, many times it really didn’t matter.

I enjoyed reading about life in Jordan, the country always fascinated me with its culture and history. From legends about Petra, stories of people who knew King Hussein, as well as Jordanians I’ve met, they all sounded fascinating.

The class structure was another unexpected aspect of the book. It seemed to me that the protagonist, Amani who is an enlightened woman, got very comfortable with the concept that some are more equal than others. On one hand, I can see how easy a trap it would be to fall into, on the other however, it seemed to me to be out of character and a bit too convenient.

The story is carefully constructed, and the characters are real and complex. Ms. Abu-Jaber beautifully navigated between Amani’s personal journey, and her family’s mystery which she seems bent on resolving.
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ZoharLaor | 2 other reviews | May 11, 2022 |
Sitti, Sami's Lebanese grandmother, has been ill for a while, slipping from reality and speaking in a language only Sami can understand. Her family thinks Sitti belongs in a nursing home, but Sami doesn't believe she's sick at all. Desperate to help, Sami casts a spell from her grandmother's mysterious charm book and falls through an ancient mirror into a world unlike any other.
managedbybooks | 1 other review | May 3, 2022 |
Fencing with the King has a really interesting plot and some amazing characters! It does start a little slow and there are a lot of names in the very first pages but it all comes together pretty quickly and once it gets going it's a wonderful story! I really enjoyed Amani’s character and her determination to figure out the family mystery. This is a story of family myths, belonging, heritage, and love! A wonderful well written book that would be great for book clubs!
jacashjoh | 2 other reviews | Apr 19, 2022 |



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