In Alligator and Other Stories, Dima Alzayat captures luminously the many ways of feeling displaced: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant, as a woman. Often told through the lens everyday scenarios, her stories are rich, relatable, and full of nuance. Each story is a snapshot of those moments when unusual circumstances suddenly distinguish us from our neighbours, throw into relief the fact that we are ‘other’.
There are ‘dangerous’ women transgressing in ‘Daughters of Manat’, and ‘A Girl in Three Acts’; In ‘Only Those Who Struggle Succeed’ a young woman will let nothing stand in the way of career success, only to discover the boulder that others have placed in her path; in ‘Ghusl’, a young woman carefully washes her brother’s body as she prepares him for burial and looks back on their childhood together; ‘Disappearance’ loosens the boundaries of diaspora or immigrant stories, and features protagonists whose ethnicity is neither central nor vital; and ‘Alligator’, the centrepiece that connects the thematic threads running throughout this book, is an incredible work: a compilation of first-person accounts, newspaper clippings, letters, real and fictionalized historical and legal documents, scripts and social-media posts, which tell the story of a Syrian-American couple killed by their town’s police department and a vigilante lynch mob.
Each of these stories is startling and real, but delivers an emotional punch that lingers long after reading.