Call Me Zebra

Call Me Zebra

3.36 (86 ratings by Goodreads)

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Most Anticipated from: Entertainment Weekly, Boston Globe, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon, Fast Company, Bitch, The Millions, Bustle, Electric Literature, Hello Giggles, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Shondaland, Publishers Weekly, and Read It Forward

"Splendidly eccentric...Hearken ye fellow misfits, migrants, outcasts, squint-eyed bibliophiles, library-haunters and book stall-stalkers: Here is a novel for you." --Wall Street Journal

From an award-winning young author, a novel following 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 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.

An adventure tale, a love story, and a paean to the power of language and literature starring a heroine as quirky as Don Quixote, as introspective as Virginia Woolf, as whip-smart as Miranda July, and as spirited as Frances Ha, Call Me Zebra will establish Van der Vliet Oloomi as an author "on the verge of developing a whole new literature movement" (Bustle).
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 157 x 231 x 25mm | 454g
  • Boston, MA, United States
  • English
  • 0544944607
  • 9780544944602
  • 95,057

Review quote

Praise for Call Me Zebra
Named a Most Anticipated Title of 2018 by the Boston Globe, Nylon, Book Riot, The Millions, and Hello Giggles
Named a Most Anticipated Fiction Title of 2018 by Bustle and Bitch
Named a Most Anticipated Title by a Woman of Color in 2018 by Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Literary Fiction Title of Spring 2018 by Publishers Weekly
Named a Most Anticipated Fiction Title of Winter 2018 by iBooks
Named a Most Anticipated Title of February 2018 by Shondaland and Read It Forward

"A sexy, complicated affair...geopolitically savvy."--Elle

"Not many authors are compared to Borges, Cervantes, and Kathy Acker all in one breath, but that is exactly what we're dealing with here: Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is a twisted, twisty genius, whose latest novel is a wild, trippy ride across countries...[Zebra] is in possession of an inimitable...voice, but it's all the better to help her--and us--navigate the chaos of this collapsing world."--Nylon

"It's difficult to pull off both depth and wit, but Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi masters both in Call Me Zebra." --Bitch

"One of the most original stories we've read in a long time...A delight for the true bibliophile." --Hello Giggles

"For every human whose first love in life will always be literature...A beautiful depiction of first love, legacy, and our desire to feel connected to where (and who) we come from." --Shondaland

"Oloomi wears her weighty intellectual bona fides lightly...Filled with literature, art and sex, Call Me Zebra is rambling and picaresque as quirky and funny as its rambunctious narrator. Its many digressions into philosophy and history are not obstacles--they are stepping-stones...With a healthy dose of literary allusions and excerpts, Call Me Zebra is a vibrant novel of a young woman's odyssey into her family's legacy of exile and erudition."--Shelf Awareness

"A unique book with a unique young voice--adventurous, emotional, absurd, and very bookish." --Omnivoracious

"A love letter to literature, as well as a thoughtful meditation on family and love." --Read It Forward

"A darkly, funny novel...[and] bombastic homage to the metacriticism of Borges, the Romantic absurdity of Cervantes, and the punk-rock autofictions of Kathy Acker...[Call Me Zebra] is a brilliant, demented, and bizarro book that demands and rewards all the attention a reader might dare to give it."--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Oloomi's rich and delightful novel... crackles throughout with wit and absurdity... [Call Me Zebra] is a sharp and genuinely fun picaresque, employing humor and poignancy side-by-side to tell an original and memorable story."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"This fierce meditation, a heady review of literature and philosophy as well as a love story, is a tour de force from the author of Fra Keeler that many will read and reread."--Library Journal

"An arresting exploration of grief alongside a powder keg of a romance."--Booklist

"Zebra is exile as education, history as passion, life as literature, and literature as death."
--Tom McCarthy, author of the Man Booker Prize-finalist Satin Island and Remainder

"A penniless orphaned refugee, Zebra knows she can count on two things: literature and death. She builds a fortress out of both, surviving on fury, on memories and manifestos, until life begins to break through. Can Zebra handle life? Can literature handle Zebra? Reader, go find out! Call Me Zebra is like nothing else I've read, geo-political and bookish and sexy, quite refreshingly nuts and yet a ripping good read. Also, there's a stolen bird! I'd say I couldn't put it down, but Zebra would never approve a cliche, so I'll pay it a compliment she might actually accept: this book metabolized me."
--Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First

"There's something really radical about this epic and ecstatic quest. It's in the tradition of Cervantes' ingenious nobleman, but also deeply in conversation with Borges's Pierre Menard and Kathy Acker's own Don Quixote. The young female narrator of Call Me Zebra luxuriates in the tradition of Enrique Vila-Matas's literary sickness, or Kafka writing that he is made entirely of literature. A hilarious picaresque, perverse and voracious."
--Kate Zambreno, author of Heroines and Green Girl

"Call Me Zebra is a book about everything--exile, love, loss, literary theory, the insouciance of time, the history of Iran, funerary rites, and the idiosyncrasies and intricacies of the mind. In the main character, Zebra, we receive 'a scribe of the future, ' one who can synthesize great swathes of literature, history, and politics to produce insights that transcend categorization, insights that illuminate existence, its ascending flights and horrors. Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, the author of Call Me Zebra, has written a marvelous book that is at once contemporary, in conversation with fiction writers such as Valeria Luiselli and Rachel Kushner, and simultaneously reaches back to the eccentric talkers and characters in the work of Vladimir Nabokov and Italo Svevo. Call Me Zebra risks the grand, the large, the sublime as a means of answering the questions we speak only to ourselves when we think no one is listening."
--Roger Reeves, author of King Me

"This novel is not about a zebra but about a whole sharp, amazing, malicious and wicked zoo. Please enjoy responsibly."
--Quim Monzo, author of A Thousand Morons and supporting character in the novel Call Me Zebra

Praise for Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi and Fra Keeler
Winner of the Whiting Award, 2015
National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree, 2015
A Slate Overlooked Book of 2013

"[An] exciting debut...It's a stunning psychological thriller, a total identification with madness that creates drama without either belittling or romanticizing the insane...Told in tight, unencumbered prose...The canny narrator's thoughts, which reel and falter as incidents accumulate, sustain a note of drama--and blessedly, humor--that provide the novel with the manic energy and tensile strength to pull it along toward its mystifying, violent end." --Los Angeles Times

"Oloomi enters so fully and sympathetically into the mad logic of her narrator that scenic detail, chronology, cause and effect, and even such mundane props as cactus, mailman, and ringing phone are bent, doubled, or subsumed by the paranoid geometries of meaning he draws...Subtly menacing, but not without humor, the novel derives momentum and tension from the space between its clear, intelligent language and the absolute unreliability of its narrator." --Slate

"Surreal...The lines that separate the living and the dead are blurred, revealing that perhaps the past is more present than it seems." --Mashable

"Van de Vliet Oloomi's spare, clear language sets this novel apart...Fra Keeler reminded me of Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances, Roberto Bolano's The Third Reich, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Reticence, not to mention big classics like Crime and Punishment and Lolita." --The Millions

"Mysterious, experimental, and surreal; [Van der Vliet Oloomi] crafts sentences so beautifully and unexpectedly that it's no wonder she's catching people's attention...She might just be on the verge of developing a whole new literature movement." --Bustle

"The book is a pleasure to read...Just as the word- and thought-play is both delightful and menacing, the narrator's logic chains are both convincing and impossible, like the patterns we all make out of everyday life." --Bookslut

"A rare gem of a book that begs to be read again." --Publishers Weekly
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Rating details

86 ratings
3.36 out of 5 stars
5 20% (17)
4 28% (24)
3 28% (24)
2 17% (15)
1 7% (6)
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