Library Journal review of Lena Tuffaha’s Water & Salt

Of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage, Tuffaha offers a beautifully crafted debut that uses clear, observant language to explore the immigrant experience and the burdens of ongoing war. As she explains, “We travel back not to// because even now/ after we’ve lived longer// here than anywhere else// we still think of this place// as new.” Writing crucially helps her negotiate that newness—“The hollows of write/ are lined with bookshelves/ and speak spirals off my tongue into stories”—as it helps her negotiate reentry into a brutalized homeland. Even as she notes the fragrance of almond blossoms, she observes: “Today again. Smoke-charred throats/ suffocating.” VERDICT Taking her from Beirut, Baghdad, Afghanistan, and a once-imprisoned Palestinian friend “whose eyes are like two pools of olive/ oil about to ignite,” Tuffaha’s journey is both immediately relevant and timelessly poetic.

Library Journal review