Cover Reveal!!!


I am thrilled to be able to share the cover for my debut novel, PAINTED HANDS. I think it's so beautiful, and captures the feel of the story perfectly.
I'm more grateful than I can say to my editor, Toni Plummer, and the entire team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press for all of their hard work and for this gorgeous result. And I am, as always, grateful to my incredible agent, Kent Wolf, for how he always "gets" this book.
I'm also honored and thrilled to have blurbs from two amazing authors, Roopa Farooki and Anne Cherian:
“A debut with an original and refreshing premise–Jennifer Zobair’s novel is about high-flying Bostonian women who struggle with their demanding careers, relationships, friendships and families, and who also happen to be Muslim. A positive portrait of modern Muslim women, prominent in their professions and at large within their communities, written with affection and detail.”—Roopa Farooki, Orange Prize finalist and author of The Flying Man
“In Painted Hands, Jennifer Zobair lifts the veil on three American Muslim women, taking readers into a world that will challenge their assumptions. Her debut novel is an important addition to the canon of ethnic fiction, showcasing the difficulty of being both American and Muslim.”—Anne Cherian, author of The Invitation and A Good Indian Wife

I can't wait to hold the book!

UPDATE:  PAINTED HANDS is now available for preorder!

"The Best Short Story I Have Ever Read (Asterisk) Smackdown" is Coming!


A few weeks ago, the ridiculously talented Davin Malasarn and I had a Twitter conversation that went something like this:

Me: Even now, on 4th or 5th read, sure "Brokeback Mountain" is the best short story I have ever read. Devastating. Brilliant. Am in awe, still.

 Him: Is this a challenge?

 Me: Maybe. Maybe we should have a little challenge. :)

And somehow the conversation moved to his blog comment section, where the “challenge” became a “smackdown” (my doing) and involved very cool people like Wendy Russ and Scott G. F. Bailey, and of course pie (again, my doing).

 Now, here we are, announcing the “Best Short Story I Have Ever Read (Asterisk)” Smackdown!

 First, I want to address the (Asterisk).

 * Yes, we realize it is impossible and unfair to actually declare that any one story is truly the best short story one has ever read. The reality is that there are many important short stories and many important short story writers and all of this is in fun.

 On with it!

 Announcing the “Best Short Story I Have Ever Read (Asterisk)” Smackdown!

 The rules:

 1. On Wednesday, December 12 you can post the title/author of your ONE story selection, with a description of why you chose it in the comments on this blog,. We will not allow any comments naming more than one story. No second places. No ties. But, see rule #3.

 2. Because there must be pie involved, you must send me a picture of a pie you made or purchased (or at least will eat) during the Smackdown prior to naming your short story. I’ll put the pictures up in the blog post. Davin says there’s extra credit if your pie is connected to the short story you chose.

 3. For those of you who still want to rave about additional short stories, you can post your second helpings over at Davin’s brilliant new-ish blog, What’s Davin Eating? (It’s about food, but not really.)

 4. The winner of our “Best Short Story I Have Ever Read (Asterisk)” Smackdown will be decided without the use of any logic and may or may not receive a prize from us. In the comments, you are allowed to make your case for why yours should be the winner!
See you there! With pie!

PLEASE NOTE: Email the pie pics to me (jazobair AT comcast DOT net) anytime between now and Wednesday.

I Am Still (not) Housekeeping

A little update since my last housekeeping post:

1. My name. Some of you may remember the J.A. Zobair business. Originally, I decided to publish under my initials, for a variety of reasons. Reasons which no longer make sense, and which I'd be happy to discuss over a two-liter of Mountain Dew with anyone if he or she, say, decides to come to AWP in March. HINT HINT.

Over the summer, with helpful input from my agent and editor, I decided to go with "Jennifer."  I'm really happy about this decision, and I'll be thrilled to see my name on the cover of Painted Hands.

Which brings us to the next two points:

2. I have a release date!  [Actually, insert 500 exclamation points here.] Painted Hands is scheduled to be released on June 11th.  As you can see, I've installed a handy little countdown on my iPhone (which will only be accurate for your purposes on the day I post this.) (The app came with other handy dates like New Year's Day and--whew--the World Cup. So I'm all set?)

3. The book cover. Okay, this is a tease, since I don't have anything to show you yet. But in the back and forth on this, I am blown away by how committed both my agent and editor are to capturing my story on the cover of this book. Blown away, and really, really grateful. More to come.

4. The Dreaded Author Photo. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Okay. I had some pictures taken in September. I am having more taken in December. Enough said.

5. Blurbs. I am so honored that Roopa Farooki (Orange Prize finalist and author of Bitter Sweets, Half Life, and The Flying Man) and Anne Cherian (author of A Good Indian Wife and The Invitation) have read and blurbed my novel. You can see what they said about Painted Hands here.


As always, I am eternally grateful to my agent, Kent Wolf, and my editor, Toni Plummer, for all of this. Except the author photo, which is a debacle of my own making.

Taking My Kids to Vote

I took this post down awhile ago for a variety of reasons.  It's political. It's very personal. I felt a bit exposed.

But I just realized my kids have the day off on Election Day. And they will come with me again. And even though they have come with me to vote on many occasions--perhaps most--I will never, not ever, forget the overwhelming emotion I felt taking them with me in 2008.

So I'm putting this back up. I am not tech-savvy enough to know if the comments people posted then will reappear. If they do, great; if not, there is no pressure to comment again.

I remember your words. And I thank you.

From 2008:

I must confess that much of the Inaugural celebration had me in tears. Okay, most of it: The image of our new president and first lady on the steps of the Capitol, President Obama's moving words, Aretha Franklin rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee," faces from around the country, watching, hoping, celebrating. Even the Secret Service officers protecting him evoked my silent, watery-eyed plea: Please, keep him safe.

But what really got to me was the Inaugural Poem  written and read by Elizabeth Alexander. I didn't love the beginning. But then came the part that, had I been standing, would have dropped me to my knees:

"Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of."

And then, shortly, this:

"What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance."

Because that's it, right? Some of our history can only be described as hateful. Most problems of the world can be traced back to indifference, greed, jealousy, hatred. And the solution?

Only the mightiest.


My tears are not tears for me--they are not born of some great hope that Barack Obama is going to make my life better. And as for the country, although I hope he will bring about important change, I labor under no misapprehension that he is The One, our savior, a modern age Messiah.

I cried because of what I brought to the occasion: An undergraduate degree in American History with a concentration in African American Studies, a law degree pursuant to which I studied the legal history of race in our country, and a son who is the same race as our new president.

That an African American man of enormous intellect and talent can ascend to our nation's highest office is no small thing, even now, given what came before. In a country where black people could once lawfully be bought and sold, used and abused, bred and killed, it is no small thing, even now. In a country where, in my parents' lifetime, a little girl named Ruby Bridges went to school under armed guard and surrounded by the voices of white adults shouting at her and threatening her and one even showing her a coffin with a black doll in it, it is no small thing, even now.

Imagine studying all of this with your own African American son. Imagine discussing slavery and sharecropping and segregation and anti-miscegenation laws and then finally, finally, Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, and the Voting Rights Acts, and Selma, and Thurgood Marhshall and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks and Malcolm X and...Barack Obama.

And imagine taking your son with you into the voting booth, both in the primaries and the general election, and as soon as you enter the school where you are assigned to vote, you look at your son and think, we are voting for an African American for president.

And you thank God that your son has no true idea of how big this is, even now.

When I look at the abilities of this president, I am impressed beyond measure. But I do not think President Obama is perfect, nor have I loved every position he has ever taken. I am realistic about the problems we face and the pressures that will come to bear on the President.

I cried not because of what I hope President Obama can do for me. I cried because of what his election undid for so many. I cried not because I think he is some perfect politician who will magically solve our problems.

In the end, I cried because I believe he can inspire a searching nation to fix itself.