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Photo credit: Carleen Coulter 

Living an authentic life

Zaina Arafat

Thursday, September 22, 2022
4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk
7:30 p.m. — Conversation and reading
Both events in the Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West Addition
University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222
View map   /  Free and open to the public.

Zaina Arafat, LGBTQ Palestinian-American journalist and fiction writer, is the author of the debut novel, You Exist Too Much (2020), which received the 2021 Lambda Literary Award. In her online newsletter, The Audacity, Roxane Gay named it her favorite book of 2020.


The novel follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she endeavors to lead an authentic life. O, The Oprah Magazine called it, “A provocative and seductive debut,” and said, “Novels like these don’t exist enough.”

Zaina Arafat credit Carleen Coulter

Zaina teaches creative writing at Barnard College. She has also taught at the University of Iowa, The School of the New York Times, the International Writing Program and Sackett Street Writers, as well as abroad in Jordan, Egypt and Eritrea, where she taught creative writing as part of a U.S. State Department/International Writing Program delegation. She has also led workshops for dreamers and DACA recipients through the Writer's Guild Initiative. 


As an editor, she curated a portfolio of prose and poetry in response to the travel ban, as well as a Q & A series with Muslim writers for The Margins. She also served as the managing editor of VinePair, the largest online publication on wine news and culture. 

Cosponsored by the UAlbany Honors College.  |

Zaina Arafat, You Exist too Much -200.jpg

More about You Exist Too Much

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12–year–old Palestinian–American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.

Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought–after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.” In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.

Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love, and a place to call home.

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