Title: Call Me Zebra
Author: Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
Once in a while, there comes a book that infuses literature and life so brilliantly that you can’t help but reread it the minute you are done with it. That is what happened to me when I just finished reading, “Call Me Zebra” by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. I had to reread it. To experience the prose again, the beauty and sadness of it and to find comfort in the fact that there are people who seek refuge in literature, just like me.
22-year-old Zebra is the last one standing in the long line of “Autodidacts, Anarchists, Atheists” of a family exiled from early ‘90s Iran. Years after her family’s harrowing and long-winding escape, alone in New York (after her father’s death; her mother died while they were escaping), Zebra decides to retrace her family’s dislocation and compose a grand manifesto on what really is literature.
I cannot stop gushing about the book. Yes, it did take me some time to get into it but when I did, it was a breeze. It was like going on a road trip with a friend and being privy to their life and secrets. There is wit and absurdity and love (some sort of love) with Ludo Bembo. There is a strange obsession with death, art, history and life. Oloomi has drawn a character so rich, with all her flaws and character strengths that you cannot help but fall in love with Zebra.
Ludo and Zebra’s love is eccentric. It is the kind of love you want and don’t want. You might yearn for it and then think about not wanting it. I loved when that happened to me while reading this book. “Call Me Zebra” breaks all form in terms of writing, inner monologues, character and above all the way a story is to be read and savoured.