Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi has been hailed as an author “on the verge of developing a whole new literature movement” (Bustle) and, now, her new novel, Call Me Zebra, affirms her “brilliant, demented” (Kirkus) genius as she explores the ways in which we cope with grief, our unresolved histories, and the tangled depths of love.

More than a decade after fleeing Iran during the height of the Iraq War, Zebra, now an orphan, must face life in exile alone, with literature as her only armor. To reconcile her past and uncertain future, Zebra embarks on a literary pilgrimage, leaving America to retrace her family’s dislocation. As she traverses the vast expanse of the Western Mediterranean, she’s guided by the sage words of Cervantes,Borges, Stendhal, and Dali. But her journey back to Iran quickly derails in Barcelona when Ludo, a stalwart realist mystified by her intensity, enters the picture and the two begin a sexy, if fraught, affair.

Each battle for room in the other’s life, while struggling with their own complex ideas of belonging. It’s this desire that spins these star-crossed lovers across countries and oceans in a desperate, endearing quest to be understood.

“A sharp and genuinely fun picaresque” (Publishers Weekly) that’s by turns heartbreaking, irreverent, and sexy, Call Me Zebra asks pressing questions about what it means to be exiled in a volatile world and, in turn, explores what it is to embrace our differences.

Prise for Call Me Zebra

"Not many authors are compared to Borges, Cervantes, and Kathy Acker all in one breath, but that is exactly what we're dealing with here: Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is a twisted, twisty genius, whose latest novel is a wild, trippy ride across countries…[Zebra] is in possession of an inimitable…voice, but it’s all the better to help her—and us—navigate the chaos of this collapsing world."—Nylon

"It’s difficult to pull off both depth and wit, but Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi masters both in Call Me Zebra."—Bitch

"One of the most original stories we’ve read in a long time...A delight for the true bibliophile."—Hello Giggles

“A darkly, funny novel…[and] bombastic homage to the metacriticism of Borges, the Romantic absurdity of Cervantes, and the punk-rock autofictions of Kathy Acker…[Call Me Zebra] is a brilliant, demented, and bizarro book that demands and rewards all the attention a reader might dare to give it.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Oloomi’s rich and delightful novel… crackles throughout with wit and absurdity… [Call Me Zebra] is a sharp and genuinely fun picaresque, employing humor and poignancy side-by- side to tell an original and memorable story.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"This fierce meditation, a heady review of literature and philosophy as well as a love story, is a tour de force from the author of Fra Keeler that many will read and reread."—Library Journal

"An arresting exploration of grief alongside a powder keg of a romance."—Booklist

"Zebra is exile as education, history as passion, life as literature, and literature as death."—Tom McCarthy, author of the Man Booker Prize-finalist Satin Island and Remainder

"A penniless orphaned refugee, Zebra knows she can count on two things: literature and death. She builds a fortress out of both, surviving on fury, on memories and manifestos, until life begins to break through…Call Me Zebra is like nothing else I've read, geo-political and bookish and sexy, quite refreshingly nuts and yet a ripping good read…this book metabolized me."—Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First

"There’s something really radical about this epic and ecstatic quest. It’s in the tradition of Cervantes’ ingenious nobleman, but also deeply in conversation with Borges’s Pierre Menard and Kathy Acker’s own Don Quixote. The young female narrator of Call Me Zebra luxuriates in the tradition of Enrique Vila-Matas’s literary sickness, or Kafka writing that he is made entirely of literature. A hilarious picaresque, perverse and voracious."—Kate Zambreno, author of Heroines and Green Girl

Call Me Zebra is a book about everything—exile, love, loss, literary theory, the insouciance of time, the history of Iran, funerary rites, and the idiosyncrasies and intricacies of the mind…Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi…has written a marvelous book that is at once contemporary, in conversation with fiction writers such as Valeria Luiselli and Rachel Kushner, and simultaneously reaches back to the eccentric talkers and characters in the work of Vladimir Nabokov and Italo Svevo. Call Me Zebra risks the grand, the large, the sublime as a means of answering the questions we speak only to ourselves when we think no one is listening.”—Roger Reeves, author of King Me

“This novel is not about a zebra but about a whole sharp, amazing, malicious and wicked zoo. Please enjoy responsibly.”—Quim Monzó, author of A Thousand Morons and supporting character in the novel Call Me Zebra

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi has lived in Iran, Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and now splits her time between South Bend, Indiana and Florence, Italy. She is the recipient of a Whiting Award and was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees in 2015 for her debut book Fra Keeler. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, GRANTA, Guernica, BOMB, and elsewhere.

Photo by Kayla Holdread

Event date: 
Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Call Me Zebra By Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi Cover Image
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9780544944602
Published: Mariner Books - February 6th, 2018

Fra Keeler By Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi Cover Image
Possibly out of print. Email or call to check availability and price.
ISBN: 9780984469345
Published: Dorothy, a publishing project - October 9th, 2012