Today we have Lori Goldstein to give us a brief excerpt from her debut novel Becoming Jinn. Becoming Jinn is one of my most anticipated book of 2015, I hope that you enjoy the excerpt below(I did!) and join the giveaway! ;)
Thanks for hosting this excerpt of Becoming Jinn! The scene I’m including here comes early in the book after Azra has pushed her mother on why she has to do this: why she has to become a Jinn. One of the themes in Becoming Jinn is the importance of family, and for Azra that is her mother and her Zar “sisters”—the fellow Jinn girls she’s grown up with but has never been able to relate to. Friendships between girls are vital for the support and strength they give us all, and Azra is—or should be—no different. This scene is the introduction to all the Zar sisters in Azra’s life. Two things to note: “to app” is to move via Jinn teleportation and “Mr. Gemp” is a genie lantern that passes from one Zar sister to the next on their birthdays. I hope you enjoy!
“Look, Azra, here’s the thing. This may not be the life you want, but it’s the only one you’ve got,” my mother says. “Making the best of it, not the worst, is up to you, but it’s a long road to take all by yourself. Life is compromise, after all.”
Compromise? Really? That’s what becoming Jinn is?
My knuckles turn white as I ball my hands into fists. Without a word, I peel out of the kitchen and march toward the stairs. Until the bangle taps against my leg, I forget I don’t need the stairs anymore.
I app myself to my room, relishing the internal burn as I collapse on top of my white comforter. I flick the bangle with one finger, letting it ride circles around my wrist.
Compromise suggests a concession on each side. But we’re the ones who have to give up everything. We live without the rest of our family, in our little Zar enclaves, churning out the next generation of Jinn. Being able to conjure chocolate truffles doesn’t make up for that.
My mother doesn’t understand. She can’t understand. Yes, the same restrictions apply for her, but that wasn’t always the case. She grew up with her mother and her father. She had male Jinn in her life, including my father. It wasn’t until around the time I was born that the Afrit ordered all male Jinn to leave the human world. Even if she only had my father for a short time, it’s more than I’ve had.
I bury my head under my pillow until the smell of browning chicken wafts through my open door. I sit up. My mother’s cooking without magic for me. She’s trying. My birthday present, the purple shirt neatly folded on my dresser, further chastens me. I know she’s trying.
And the truth is, unless we want to bring the wrath of the Afrit down on us, neither one of us has a choice. On this long road, all we really have is each other.
Mr. Gemp materializes out of thin air on my nightstand.
I swear, sometimes it’s as if my mother can read my mind. Because we don’t just have each other. We also have our Zar sisters. At least we’re supposed to.
Open. Close. Open. Close. I toggle the lid, but nothing escapes in a cloud of blue smoke. I pick up the lamp to move it to my bookshelf and notice the top isn’t fully closed. Something’s caught in the hinge. Not a magical genie—at least not yet.
Rolled up inside the lantern is a photograph of six tween Jinn. Along with our shiny hair and penchant for sugar, we inherited our closest Zar relationships from our mothers: me and Laila; Mina and Farrah; Hana and Yasmin. I always thought Hana got the raw end of that deal. Which everyone else must think of Laila.
Laila, sweet, blond, petite Laila, who, even in the picture, is a head shorter than the rest of us. Standing in front with her skinny arms spread wide, the tip of one finger in front of me and the tip of the other in front of Yasmin. The mortar in our bricks then and now.
My mousy self-cropped hair and slouch is countered by Yasmin’s cascading jet-black curls and arched back. With her long skinny nose raised in the air, all that’s missing is the pointy black hat. Again, then and now.
Hana. Next to me, with her fiery-red hair grazing her shoulders and mine. She was in her eyeglasses-wearing stage then. As if she needed them to prove how smart she is.
And in the middle, Mina and Farrah, as close as Siamese twins. Born with a noisemaker in her mouth and party streamers around her belly, baby-faced Mina stands in her signature stance of hands tossed high in the air. With her boundless energy and vivacious personality, she’d match, hoop for hoop, any dolphin at SeaWorld. Next to her is square-chinned Farrah, whose quick, sharp movements and cuddly nature always reminded me of a rabbit. Her foot’s caught in mid-tap and her finger tugs on a strand of hair as she works to cover what she’s always thought was a slightly too-big forehead.
Laila, Yasmin, Hana, Mina, and Farrah. My Zar, who stopped inviting me to their birthday parties. But who, apparently, are still coming to mine.
I wonder if they feel as conflicted about that as I do?
Even before I flip the photo over, I know the date it was taken. The day I turned ten. The first birthday I didn’t share with Jenny.
I remember the present Laila gave me: a framed picture of Jenny and me kneeling on the grass outside her house with the tiny Laila standing on our backs. Henry took that photo.
I remember the awkward looks on Hana, Mina, and Farrah’s faces as Laila gave me that present. None of them acknowledged Jenny’s absence then. None of them had acknowledged Jenny’s absence in the year before then. Though Jenny had been as much a fixture in my life as they’d been, when she was gone, it was like she never existed.
But mostly, I remember Yasmin. Walking in on her reading my diary later that day. Seeing the guilt turn to hurt on Hana’s freckled face. Watching Mina mistakenly snip Farrah’s dark brown bangs too short. Feeling Laila’s warm fingers interlacing with mine, holding me back as much as holding me.
“None of them!” Yasmin read, stomping her foot and treating my words like those of a petulant child instead of a grief-stricken “sister.”
Not Hana, not Mina, not Farrah, not Yasmin. None of them came. None of them said they were sorry. Not right away and not in the months since. She was my best friend. I thought she was their friend too. They acted liked it. Are they acting with me too?
Laila’s the only one who cares. She’s the only one I need. I’d trade all the rest to have Jenny back. I’d trade all the rest to have Jenny back for a single day. Let the Afrit take them. They deserve that and more.
Even Yasmin’s voice trembled as she read that last line.
Each one tried to apologize. The heart-shaped pillow embroidered with my and Jenny’s initials that Hana made me still sits on the chair next to my window, though Mina’s collage of all the guys from One Tree Hill has probably been recycled into toilet paper or coffee filters by now. The mix CD Farrah gave me, bursting with the falsetto of all her favorite boy bands, is tucked away somewhere on my shelves. Yasmin’s card? The one where she listed all the reasons not to befriend humans? I read it and burned it.
Maybe in her own way she was trying. They all were. But I couldn’t. My tenth birthday is one of a handful of times my whole Zar has been together in the years since. The more our mothers pushed, the more we pulled away.
Sometimes, Laila and I were a team. When Yasmin pulled a new prank on a human, we tattled together. But when Hana staged one of her runway shows, making each of us model ensembles she put together from clothes conjured by her mother, I hit the pavement alone while Laila hopped right up on the lighted catwalk our mothers’ powers built. Mina and Farrah morphed from infatuated preteens to full-blown boy-crazy Jinn, sneaking into clubs to see emo bands that I mistakenly thought had something to do with an annoying character on Sesame Street.
By the time I was ready to forgive, they were past wanting me to.
But maybe the genie lamp my mother just sent up here shows they’re ready to try. Which leaves me as the only one not.
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