Dima Alzayat’s book Alligator and other stories is best explained as exactly that. These are Other Stories. This sense of otherness is at the heart of both Alzayat’s exploration of Arab American identity, as well as her insistence on the impossibility of belonging. The stories have perfect titles like “Summer Of The Shark” and “Once We Were Syrians”. -KB
The award-winning stories in Dima Alzayat’s collection, Alligator and Other Stories, are luminous and tender, whether dealing with a woman preforming burial rites for her brother in “Ghusl,” or the great-aunt struggling to explain cultural identity to her niece in “Once We Were Syrians.”
Alzayat’s stories are rich and relatable, chronicling a sense of displacement through everyday scenarios. There is the intern in pre-#MeToo Hollywood of “Only Those Who Struggle Succeed,” the New York City children on the lookout for a place to play on the heels of Etan Patz’s kidnapping in “Disappearance,” or the “dangerous” women of “The Daughters of ManÄt” who struggle to assert their independence.
The title story, “Alligator,” is a masterpiece of historical reconstruction and intergenerational trauma, told in an epistolary format through social media posts, newspaper clippings, and testimonials, that starts with the true story of the lynching of a Syrian immigrant couple by law officers in small-town Florida. Placed in a wider context of U.S. racial violence, the extrajudicial deaths, and what happens to the couple’s children and their children’s children in the years after, challenges the demands of American assimilation and its limits.