Washes, Prays (Paperback)

Washes, Prays By Noor Naga Cover Image

Washes, Prays (Paperback)


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RBC Bronwen Wallace Award winner Noor Naga's bracing debut, a novel-in-verse about a young woman's romantic relationship with a married man and her ensuing crisis of faith.

2021 Arab American Book Award - George Ellenbogen Poetry Award, Winner
Pat Lowther Memorial Award, Winner
Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, Longlist
Fred Cogswell Award For Excellence In Poetry, Second Place Winner
CBC Best Canadian Poetry of 2020

Coocoo is a young immigrant woman in Toronto. Her faith is worn threadbare after years of bargaining with God to end her loneliness and receiving no answer. Then she meets her mirror-image; Muhammad is a professor and father of two. He's also married.

Heartbreaking and hilarious, this verse-novel chronicles Coocoo's spiraling descent: the transformation of her love into something at first desperate and obsessive, then finally cringing and animal, utterly without grace. Her best friend, Nouf, remains by her side throughout, and together they face the growing contradictions of Coocoo's life. What does it mean to pray while giving your body to a man who cannot keep it? How long can a homeless love survive on the streets? These are some of the questions this verse-novel swishes around in its mouth.
NOOR NAGA is an Alexandrian writer who was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and now lives in Alexandria. She is the winner of the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award, the 2019 Disquiet Fiction Prize, and the 2019 Graywolf Press Africa Prize. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Granta, The Walrus, The Common, The Sultan's Seal, POETRY, and more. Her debut novel, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in April 2022.
Product Details ISBN: 9780771005893
ISBN-10: 077100589X
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: March 24th, 2020
Pages: 80
Language: English
Praise for Noor Naga and Washes, Prays

"These poems glide between scenes of quiet intimacy and smiling friendship. They get to the heart of difficult matter the way good poets do—by admitting awe and honesty. Washes, Prays is an inventive, genre-defying hybrid that offers a deeply necessary portrait of a Muslim woman. It dissolves stereotypes . . . making room for female desire, friendship, and the consolations of faith." —Quill & Quire

“[E]xhilarating, mile-a-minute prose poems that are fresh, provocative, and often funny. These visceral pieces take surprising hairpin turns, pulling the reader through proclamations, inquiries, and bursts of self-doubt. Noor Naga achieves all this with a language that is rich and sensory, and a visually rigid structure that counter-intuitively unfolds to allow a multiplicity of pacing and play.” —RBC Bronwen Wallace Award Jury Citation

"Naga has the ability to capture a universe within a few lines: 'rain like glass needles so sharp I hear them slice the air clatter excitedly off the hoods of cars / nouf turns her face to the sky like a happy pincushion.'  . . . Washes, Prays tells old stories in new language." —The Walrus

"[A] lyrical novel that opens with a fierce ontology of its self-contained world of poetics—an introduction fit for an ancient Arabic love poem. Naga beautifully navigates ancient culture with a startlingly fresh contemporary lens. Her poetry pays homage to tradition but is not afraid to criticize it as well. . . [A] brilliant debut, containing one breathtaking poem after another." —Arc Poetry Magazine