The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan writes a powerful poetic compilation about growing up in-between cultures and identities.

Song Pairing: “Wish You Well” by Emma Louise  Listen Here / 2018 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist

In Western and Islamic culture, the twenty-ninth year is a culmination of transformation and upheaval. Being in my 29th year myself, I wanted to read something that would defy my pseudo-dramatic perception of what being on the cusp of 30 might mean– beyond a shift in the dynamics of womanhood.

What I received from this collection was more unexpected—I learned about Hala Alyan. I learned about her travels around the earth, from Beirut to Texas and almost everywhere in between. Hala knits so many unassumingly disconnected fragments together to display a descriptive tapestry of her questioning childhood, her screaming young adulthood, from alcoholism and drug use to family duty and marriage. She takes stereotypes and unwinds them in front of you.

“I’ve been working on the same joke for years. The punchline is you were happy all along.”

Hala’s poetry reminds me of my own teen years. Though I’m a 29-year-old white, agnostic female born and raised in America, I felt much of her path through adolescence as if it were my own. And then there were moments where I knew I was learning to see through eyes that have witnessed so much more than I have, through a woman who has lived and endured things I could never understand, and I appreciated the difference. I appreciated that I may never understand, but I could treasure the glimpse Hala Alyan gave me.

“A woman takes her sorrow to the river and drowns it, pale feathers and all.”

I very intimately enjoyed Hala Alyan’s The Twenty-Ninth Year, though it might not be a read for everyone.

Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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