By: Carrie Pinkard
Welcome to Literature in a Cup, a novel-tea monthly book club where we discuss the perfect book and tea pairings. Here’s what we have brewing this month:
Palestinian, American, woman, daughter, bisexual, girlfriend, sister, writer. You Exist Too Much is about juggling one’s identities, both those we are born with and those we choose along the way.
Throughout the novel, we follow the nameless main character as she tries to reconcile with her identities. The first of these is womanhood. She recounts what it was like being 12 and wearing shorts while in Bethlehem. Men hissed at her and shouted “Haram,” meaning forbidden. She ended up trading pants with her uncle so her legs were covered.
“It occurred to me in that moment to question why, as a man, his bare legs were somehow less troubling than mine,” she said. “In acquiring my gender, I had become offensive.”
The next identity she grapples with is her bisexuality. The novel follows her as she falls in and out of a series of relationships with both men and women. The ones she has with women feel the most sincere, but they’re also the ones that bring her the most shame as she tries to hide them from her family.
“To be a woman who desired other women seemed even worse, especially shameful and shocking in its lack of reverence for the male-centric culture.”
The protagonist’s Palestinian roots make her feel like she is never truly home. She talks about spending long summers with her family in Nablus where she longed for all things American. But then when she returned home to Washington D.C. she missed the warm air of the Middle East and her grandmother’s cooking.
At the intersection of her identities is the desire to please her mother, who never seems to accept her for who she is. The title of the book, You Exist Too Much, comes from something the main character’s mother often said to her while she was growing up. Her toxic relationship with her mom leads her to constantly seek love elsewhere, and eventually check herself into a treatment center for “love addiction.”
Here she meets people who are struggling with their own demons. She learns tools that help her set boundaries with her mom, and try to help her see the difference between having love for yourself and needing others to love you.
You Exist Too Much portrays a constant state of longing. The character aches for a place to call home and she looks for that in both cities and people. She is always shifting from place to place and from person to person, hoping that the next apartment she moves into or the next person she loves will bring her a sense of belonging.
The book shows how all the places you’ve been and people you’ve met become an amalgamation of who you are. It shows how wrestling all of our identities together to form one happy and functional person is often easier said than done.
About the pairing:
We paired You Exist Too Much with our Recover tea because Recover is about restoring and rebuilding yourself, just like the novel. The main character’s quest to find who she is and build herself up goes perfectly with the restorative powers of our Recover tea. Recover has Anise that can help with symptoms of depression, and Echinacea that strengthens your immune system. The tea is a blend of many different ingredients, just as the main character is a blend of her distinct identities.
Ready to go on a self-discovery journey of your own? Pick up the book from your local bookstore or library and get your Recover Tea here.
Calling All Bookworms
We want this to be a fun and interactive place for you all to come together and chat about a fabulous book while sipping on some Snarky Tea. So please leave your comments on the book as you’re reading, and join our Literature In A Cup Facebook group to chat with other book-worms and tea enthusiasts.