Call Me Zebra

Call Me Zebra

Book - 2018
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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 from Iran to the United States years ago. Books are Zebra's only companions--until she meets Ludo. Their connection is magnetic; their time together fraught. Zebra overwhelms him with her complex literary theories, her concern with death, and her obsession with history. He thinks she's unhinged; she thinks he's pedantic. Neither are wrong; neither can let the other go. They push and pull their way across the Mediterranean, wondering with each turn if their love, or lust, can free Zebra from her past.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780544944602
Branch Call Number: VANDERV
Characteristics: 292 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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CALS_Lee Apr 24, 2020

Oloomi writes with such an air of unreality. Her debut novel took place within the mind of a madman and this, her second, continues its repetitive, circling patterns. The main character, who has renamed herself Zebra, is also likely somewhat mad. She's certainly is... a lot. She’s a lot! Obsessed, over the top, heedless of anyone else’s feelings, deeply wounded. Though the pathos of Zebra struggling to accept that she needs love in a cruel universe of meaningless suffering, near the end of the book, was affecting.

This book does have some great passages. I am particularly fond of this one:

"I told him that my ill-fated ancestors and I had survived death through our intimate engagement with literature. Then, I thought to myself, engagement is too mild a word, so I replaced it with refuge. I said, 'We, the ill-fated, have taken refuge in literature.' But this description also failed to communicate a sufficient level of intensity. With a hint of violence, I added: 'Hear me! We have pitched our tattered tents in the dark forests of literature!'"

Aug 28, 2019

"I don't know what it means to be human. I though I knew, but that, too, has been undone along with everything else."
This fascinating and unconventional 2018 novel is one of the best books I've read in the past few years. Iranian-born Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi, who teaches at Notre Dame, tells the story of an Iranian woman, who takes on the name Zebra, who flees her country, ends up in New York, and then, after the death of her beloved father, travels to Spain, where she pursues her family's motto of "atheism, anarchy, autodidact-ism" and becomes involved with a moody Italian. Zebra is not exactly a likable or warm character, but she is a compelling one, and Oloomi's novel is an often dazzling exploration of identity, exile, and literature as a way of life.

Feb 24, 2019

A 2019 Tournament of Books Short List Choice.

Over two hundred pages into "Call Me Zebra," the title character’s heartsick lover turns to her in confusion and torment, saying “you make no room for being understood.” Dear reader, I couldn’t agree more. While it is uncertain whether this will be a fatal flaw for her, it darn well killed my joy in reading her story.

There are those who will love this title. The writing is sharp, the eccentric main character is certainly unique, and the storyline is kooky enough to have its charms. Zebra’s devotion to hammering ninja stars out of literature and assaulting the stupid and the putrid of the world with them might engage those similarly inclined to either book worship or witty misanthropy. Still, the militant and manic tone created by her philosophical obsessions becomes wearying and flat pretty quickly, even when her insights are brilliant.

While her attempt to resolve the grief, the exile, and the cavernous loneliness that has pressed her heart flat creates the requisite tension to allow a Leonard Cohen like “crack” in the torrent of her words and thoughts, it occurs too late in the story to truly “let the light in,” and that left me feeling just as exasperated and distant as her heartbroken lover in the end.

sdodge66 Feb 22, 2018

Discovery of self is a physical journey of body and soul.


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Feb 22, 2020

Author with roots all over the world and steeped in world classic literature takes us on a metaphysical journey through grief asking the question of whether and how there is a place for love. Inspired me to read dante and to seek out more international authors.

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