Son of Sin
by Omar Sakr
Published February 2022
Towards the end of Son of Sin, the narrator – a now adult Jamal Khaddaj Smith – relates a memory of ‘telling some story of his life’ to friends ‘like Adam or [his housemate] Dan’. His friends respond to his story ‘with mingled disbelief and wonderment, saying, Your life is like a soap opera – because there were too many characters, too much death, nothing at all like the kind of spare, elegant novels they studied in school’.
This moment of reflexivity offers a way of thinking about Omar Sakr’s debut novel. Son of Sin is a bildungsroman set against historical events in Australia, which are not immediately signalled but revealed as the story progresses. It spans the years from just before the Cronulla race riots of 2005 to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey of 2017, and some of its major themes – Australian racism, migrant identity, and queer sexuality – relate to those events. The New South Wales HSC Curriculum for this span of time had a number of novels that may fit the above description (‘spare, elegant’): Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air (2006) and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003), for instance (Melissa Jogie’s 2015 article presents these and other English set texts across this period). Swallow the Air and The Namesake are certainly elegantly written, and spare in comparison to Son of Sin. Sakr’s novel is teeming with the feelings of its characters: anger, despondency, ambivalence, shame, joy; with cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and school friends; with Arabic and Turkish phrases: Jamal has Lebanese family in and near Lurnea in Western Sydney, and an estranged Turkish one; with familial expectations; with violence, both threatened and enacted; with sexual acts that transgress cultural proscriptions; and with a shifting, sometimes lush literary style.
The plot follows Jamal’s maturation into adulthood, in a large family conscious of their precarious place in Australian society; along the way, he awakens to his sexuality and confronts pressures which cast his queerness as sinful. By the end of the novel, Jamal is a young man at relative peace with his sexuality and dual heritage. Key characters who facilitate or complicate this journey are his volatile mother Hala and his estranged father Cevdat; his brother Moses, his teyta and jido (grandmother and grandfather), and aunty Rania; and lovers/friends Bilal, Kassem, Emir and Ilo. Western Sydney and Mersin in Turkey – where Cevdat lives – are its two settings.
Stylistically and thematically, Son of Sin builds upon Sakr’s earlier work in prose and poetry. In its plot and characterisation, it bears some resemblance to ‘White Flu,’ a short story it was expanded from, first published in the anthology After Australia (2020). This speculative tale, set in Western Sydney, imagines that a strain of influenza is ‘devastating the West in particular, and people of European or Anglo descent seemed to be the only ones dying’. White deaths in this scenario form a backdrop to the protagonist Jamal’s concerns. His mother is in hospital – he thinks she may be dying; his aunty isn’t visiting her, and his brother Moses won’t talk to her; and he ruminates on navigating his bisexuality with his family – his brother having outed him years ago. Narrative flashbacks by his mother’s ‘deathbed’ (we never know what is ailing her, but she is later discharged from hospital), and scenes in his sharehouse room and at his aunty’s house, open out to impressions on these topics.
The first mirrored passage I noticed in Son of Sin is a description of Jamal’s mother. From the start of ‘White Flu’: ‘I could see her skull where her long black hair had thinned out either from age or decades of the acidic spray she would pour on it in the mornings.’ And from the penultimate chapter of Son of Sin: ‘He could see her scalp where her dark hair had thinned on the sides from years of being straightened, years of the acidic hairspray she sprayed on each morning.’ The version of the mother in ‘White Flu’ – difficult but ultimately loving – is the one we meet at the end of the novel; at the novel’s beginning she is unwell, at times a demon who flies into abusive rages. Other elements from the short story are scattered throughout the novel: a cousin, Bilal (no longer a family member in Son of Sin); the inside of Bilal’s garage, with the fake leather couch on which they have sex; aunty Rania and her cracked heels; Rania calling Jamal ‘you stupid boy’; his teyta and jido; Rania cutting leaves from a vine to make his teyta’s favourite dish; Jamal sending post-masturbation selfies to Grindr contacts. A real event that dates ‘White Flu’ is Donald Trump’s attempted construction of a wall between the USA and Mexico; Trump comes up in the third section of Son of Sin too: Jamal sees Dan reading about his ‘Muslim ban’. In Son of Sin, other references work to historicise the action: there are passing mentions of MSN, Myspace, Tango, a Nokia 7610, an Amazon Echo, and the establishment in NSW of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad.
The speculative in ‘White Flu’ is translated into the magical in Son of Sin. The novel’s preface, written in Jamal’s voice, begins, ‘My uncle Mehmet once told me how, when he was a boy, sleeping … in a one-room unit in Marrickville’:
He woke as a spirit – nudged out of his body by the foot of an angel – and … took the hand of this angel, and was swept away across the land of the living and the dead. He was unafraid, a little Turk in a strange country; this was simply another translocation. He remembered an enormous shore, unending waters, how he did not sink into the sand; he recalled the black feet of the titanic angel, and how by the time he returned to his small body, curled up between his two younger brothers, his spirit feet had begun to blacken too. Mehmet Amca waggled his thick bushy eyebrows when he told me this, and said, See oğlum? My life should be a novel, isn’t it? Call it Action, Romance, Mystery, Tragedy, Love, Everything.
Jamal introduces us to his uncle’s fantastical tale, and the framing of his life as a kind of maximalist novel – one that is unable to be contained by generic categories. He then looks to his late uncle for guidance, for the story he is about to tell us: ‘I would like to hope that he is standing beside me now … and that he is about to lead me out’.
References to the novel form open and close Son of Sin, which attempts to render in elevated prose the interiority of its narrator and the world of its Lebanese (and other migrant) characters. I have so far reached for ‘lush’ and ‘elevated’ to describe the novel’s aesthetic. By contrast, four of the six authors who provide blurbs for the book reach for terms related to poetry:
‘Omar’s intensely poetic narrative adds a new and powerful dimension to the Australian literary landscape.’ (Alexis Wright)
‘Omar Sakr wields language with a poet’s hunger for truth.’
‘Poetry in prose.’ (Sisonke Msimang)
‘Lyrical … a poet’s novel that leavens the wrenching with the sacred.’ (Zeyn Joukhadar)
It is common for a poet who turns to fiction or non-fiction to be lauded for bringing the spirit of their first form into their new one. I recall a friend saying of Robert Gray’s memoir The Land I Came Through Last (2008) that the writing ‘is exceptional, as often happens when a poet turns their mind to prose’. But this claim is not generalisable, and it reflects readerly taste: what kind of poet are they appreciating in prose? In the above descriptions, ‘intensely poetic narrative,’ ‘poetry in prose’ and ‘poet’s novel’ do not offer clues to specific elements of style. ‘A poet’s hunger for truth’ gestures to motivation, implying perhaps that poets are more driven to discover something essential about their subjects. The often used, broad ‘lyrical’ is most specific on style, suggesting a first-person point of view that explores depths of feeling, which may or may not be euphonious.
Intriguingly, the cover blurb for Winch’s Swallow the Air described that novel as being ‘poetic yet visceral’. If one poetic novel is spare while the other is lush, we might suppose that the poetic lies in other attributes besides spareness or lushness. ‘Poetic yet visceral’ suggests that poetry is cerebral, and that the writing in Swallow the Air is of ‘the mind’ yet also of ‘the body’. The phrase seems to contrast the refinement of thought, feeling and perception (a method in some poetics) with a more gritty, bloody aesthetic, claiming both for Winch’s novel. While I think I have worked out the intent in this case, when prose is described with reference to poetry, it is not always clear what authors and publishers wish to signal to readers about style.
Comparative analyses can tell us what, if anything, has migrated with a poet to their new form. Sakr’s poetry collections These Wild Houses (2017) and The Lost Arabs (2019) both have a strong first-person presence. In general, These Wild Houses tends towards taut poems that work through intense emotions, sometimes at length. The poems have a quiet interiority to them, while also giving the sense of being extremely driven. They are always interested in fine details in the (urban) environment and are occasionally rhapsodic. They make personal experience mythic. In ‘Not So Wild,’ which represents a tender friendship while alluding to other hidden affections, a childhood friend climbs a water tower, with other boys who have ‘tatters / of porn clutched in hand’. As he does so, he becomes ‘Icarus’ to the poem’s speaker. Sakr continues: ‘Sometimes / I dream-sing you adrift into riotous clouds, and feel / again the joy of those formless days’. Or take ‘Landing,’ a poem which makes migration mythic:
My grandparents flew here homes ago,
their wingspan besting oceans to reach
where worlds end, and begin again. My
mother and her siblings, while fledglings
only, retained their feathered bodies
a movable Mediterranean. They spoke
as prophets, mellifluous and mysterious…
The lyricism of Sakr’s poetry – its first-person voice flush with feeling – is transmuted in the prose of Son of Sin, through its short preface and into its body. In the preface we encounter an earnest, fictional ‘I’ who lays claim to the story we are about to read; this is Jamal Khaddaj Smith. The novel is then narrated by a fictional ‘he’ – also Jamal. This quick perspectival shift serves to distance Sakr from his protagonist: within the book’s covers, Jamal is the author of Jamal’s story.
I noted that several phenomena from These Wild Houses appear in Sakr’s novel. These include: Liverpool and Jamal (a cousin of the poem’s speaker), in ‘Harmony of Dirt’; Jemz (aka Jamal in Son of Sin) in ‘All My Names’; the speaker’s grandparents’ brick flat in the Western Sydney suburb of Warwick Farm, in ‘ghosting the ghetto’; the dog Samson, and ‘choreography of prayer’ echoing ‘choreography of faith’ at the novel’s opening, in ‘Call Off Duty’; ‘bats in the trees’ in ‘Echoes of Home’; and the suburb of Casula in ‘Election Day’. The novel contains fewer echoes of The Lost Arabs. In that collection, ‘Fridays in the park (or how to make a boy holy)’ depicts sex between the speaker and a nameless ‘Arab [boy] … in the long grass of the park’; Son of Sin’s first sex scene features Jamal and Bilal in the ‘sloping grass’ of a field. The poem ‘Factoids’ explores a theme touched on in the novel: cycles of intergenerational abuse. It refers to violence inflicted on a mother that has a patriarchal lineage: ‘When she was young, one of nine, [her father] beat them / with his father’s hands.’ Reminiscent of what we learn about Hala in Son of Sin, ‘Factoids’ mentions as well that this mother’s ‘first husband beat her. He was high on heroin.’
The novel feels closer to These Wild Houses by way of specific references, and closer to The Lost Arabs in its prosier style; the novel’s emotional and thematic register takes in both collections (The Lost Arabs is more outward-looking in its political themes). The impulse of Sakr the poet to make personal experience mythic is present in Sakr the novelist too. The works have grown sequentially in page count, broadly giving a sense of Sakr’s unfurling towards prose over time.
Reviewers seem to have been led by the packaging of Son of Sin as poetic. The novel has received appreciative reviews in the Australian media: The Guardian Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Book Review, The Australian, The Conversation, The Saturday Paper, The Monthly; it also received one quite critical review in Liminal. All the positive reviews focus on characterisation: especially Jamal’s conflicted feelings about his bisexuality, in the context of family. A few reviews refer to Jamal’s difficult relationship to his mother, or to tough home conditions; to homophobia in his immediate environment; and to societal racism. A few place it in the bildungsroman genre. A couple are tempted to connect Jamal’s experience to the author’s own, and one does so explicitly.
Jay Daniel Thompson compares Son of Sin specifically to Christos Tsiolkas’s Loaded (1995), in theme and style, while claiming that moments of magic realism detract from its ‘gritty realism’. Otherwise, commentary on literary style tends to cluster around the poetic: ‘At the level of the line, Sakr has a poet’s sensibility, and he writes haunting images and insights,’ says Dion Kagan, while alluding to some unsuccessful ‘rougher edges’; ‘Sakr’s poetic craft has clearly defined his prose, as he weaves Arabic words with dialogue that rings true and a fluid, lyrical internal monologue’ (Rafka Touma); ‘the craft [is] unobtrusive … At this meeting point [a section set in Turkey] of inner conflict and the outer world, Sakr’s experience as a poet manifests most strongly’ (Andy Jackson); ‘[the section set in Turkey] is near-flawless … we finally find some of the trademarks that poets are known for’ (Hasib Hourani); ‘Sakr’s [novel] has a poet’s touch for a perfectly weighted sentence’ (Ned Hirst). Buoyed by enthusiasm, Hirst also challenges the ‘unsympathetic pedant’ to find a ‘dud sentence’ in the novel.
It is worth testing these claims, which incline towards eulogising the novel’s poetics. The novel uses similes with the frequency of lyric poems, and they can render subjects vivid through comparison: ‘Jamal got up and pulled the garage door lever; it rattled down behind him like a snake’. The cleaving of ‘rattlesnake,’ so that ‘rattled’ opens the clause and ‘snake’ ends it, has the effect of lengthening and making more palpable the sound of the garage door. As in Sakr’s poetry, the prose contains an abundance of image-rich metaphors, such as, ‘To break your fast was to be the split spoiling the family ceramic’. The metaphor is apt to Ramadan, and effectively evokes besmirched collective perfection. Some metaphors are comically on point: ‘Principal Erskine flowed beside him in a pressed suit, tall and gaunt, his head a long spotted egg.’ Such uses of simile and metaphor may be what reviewers refer to when they praise the poetry of Son of Sin.
But there are as many ambiguous or weaker examples. Consider the simile here: ‘They passed through the circle of their cousins and uncles like the wind, unremarked on, unseen, not-yet men’. Wind may be unseen, like the boy narrator around his older male relatives, but it is commonly remarked on. The sentence could be reordered for grace, by separating simile from not-simile: ‘They passed through the circle of their cousins and uncles like the wind, unseen; they were unremarked on, not-yet men.’ Other similes can make sentences feel repetitive and stretched: ‘Watching was different to reading and both were as different to doing as life was to death’.
The following metaphor is dropped casually as Jamal walks up to Bilal’s garage, reflecting on the absence of Bilal’s parents: ‘A loud shout of light spilled from the garage pad’. Here, ‘spilled’ is a metaphorical action for ‘a loud shout of light’: the phrase blends hearing and sight (‘shout of light’) with liquidity. You could argue that it is an effective example of a synaesthetic metaphor combining several senses, and it might shine with different placement, say following a paragraph break. There is no space for pause; instead the figure is distractingly wedged between Jamal’s introspection and rich imagery ending in a simile:
[The garage] wasn’t actually Bilal’s, but Jamal so rarely saw his parents there that it was hard to separate the building from Bilal himself, how he occupied it. His dad had another house in Lebanon and worked in both countries, and his mum had a busy schedule of other lonely women to pester every day. Like Rania, she would visit the other women her age for tea, which took about two hours and involved cup readings, dream interpretations, and gossip. A loud shout of light spilled from the garage pad, and Bilal and Jihad were sitting on the couch inside. Fresh air violated the room, swirling an off-putting cocktail of Lynx body spray and the fake citrus scent common to cleaning products. Next to Jihad sat Osman, Bilal’s neighbour, who was slightly older, a bony man with shifty eyes, crouched over a blue crate like a crab.
And look closely at the shifting metaphors here, from an earlier scene in the book: ‘Wayne changed all that. He had been handed a sun and left them with this guttering candle, this melted woman. Not because he beat her, he never had, but because she had loved him and he had loved her, and it hadn’t been enough.’ In an earnest passage, the progression of the woman from sun to candle to ‘melted woman’ (she might have been left as a guttering candle) has unintended comic effect.
The powers of some metaphors are subverted by their contexts: ‘… he tried to find the Arabic to reply. Between them, an untravelled sky’. ‘Untravelled sky’ evokes vast distances between adjacent speakers, and may have been poignant, but the phrase follows this image three sentences earlier: ‘On the news, muted and grainy footage of Western jets bombing a distant city.’ The sky – which is evoked in the former, and would loom large in the latter – connects Jamal’s quiet regret about being unable to reply to his teyta in Arabic with imperialist military violence, in a jarring manner. My point is that the poetic in Son of Sin is uneven, which the reviews largely don’t suggest.
Sakr’s unconventional use of punctuation, to effect narrative flow, can give his prose an appealing formal reflexivity. Early on, he introduces the ampersand as a section divider; its use here makes the reader reflect on the typical function of ‘and’ or ‘&’ in a sentence, as a simple joiner of terms, phrases and clauses. Used between sections of text, the ampersand serves a different function: it demarcates parts in a scene while implying a linear chronological relation. Around thirty pages later, an ampersand appears between narrative sections when there is an unexpected and drastic leap; it occurs after Jamal has inhaled second-hand pot smoke in his mother’s house, and is hallucinating memories on her front lawn. This ‘&’ effectively conveys a subjectively disrupted experience of time, but its potential, as a literary device capable of radically shaping the narrative, is not pursued. After a few such appearances it is retired to its first role. Another unconventional use of punctuation appears in this passage:
He could hear Rania hissing in his ears, Ta lehon ya ibn haram! Come here you sinful boy! How many times had he heard it? A hundred times, a thousand, more: as a shout promising violence: laced in an affectionate chuckle: a rasp: a whisper almost to herself, an echo as he was lassoed to her from wherever he’d been, a soft song of ya ibn haram, ya ibn haram.
While the first colon suggests a direct connection, the next ones are used like commas in a list. Jamal recalls Rania’s imperative in a moment of intensity, as he is nervously undoing Bilal’s belt – his first sexual encounter in the novel. In subsequent moments of intensity, Sakr sharpens his use of colons, for parataxis: ‘This was his earliest memory: he left his sister to die: a conspiracy of flame: the tenor of terror hounding his steps: a man he loved beat his body until it bled: he prayed for someone else to save them.’ He does this once more, five pages hence: ‘He watched Jihad take off after him: Sara curse them: Fatima wander onto the road: the eyes of the driver widen: the bonnet bend and bounce: the body rise and rise, and fall.’ The former summarises memories that the text has just explored, compressing their chronological relation. The latter is not a summary but an event: it telescopes the reader into sequential and dramatic events. These innovations enliven the prose and I hoped Sakr might continue using ‘&’ and ‘:’ in these fashions through the book, but he does so only briefly.
Son of Sin anticipates critiques of its style. In setting itself against the spare and the elegant, the text suggests that it is intended to be lush and rough; the latter descriptor might even encompass its uneven poetics. There is an important context for this stylistic reflexivity. ‘Spare, elegant’ are qualities attributed by Jamal’s Anglo and Jewish friends to the novels they read in school – presumably from or influenced by Western literary traditions – and contrasted to the stories he tells. It is tempting to see this passage, about authorial/cultural style and audience, as one cue for a critical disagreement about the book’s imagined readership: for Jackson, Son of Sin ‘never panders to white or straight sensibilities,’ whereas for Hourani it is written for ‘a white gaze’. In Sakr’s poetry, there is a similar but unreflexive remark on style, which is tied to the broad culture of the speaker. ‘Ghosting the ghetto’ describes a weekly pilgrimage, to the speaker’s grandparents’ ‘third floor brick flat … tucked into the asphalt folds of Warwick Farm’. This pilgrimage is likened to the Hajj. We read that, in this flat, ‘my grandparents were rebuilding Lebanon’:
As adults renewed rivalries, we kids splashed in the Abraham River,
once known as Adonis, an ancient baptismal turquoise that cleaved through the hallway.
Sometimes the country changed with us & we climbed Mount Lebanon in the lounge,
cooling our bodies beneath old olive trees.
The distant is brought close; this is not only Lebanon but the Kaaba, the central temple in the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca: ‘In adolescence, the Kaaba flowered between us, a black square lotus edged in gilt / across the sides, doors of gold gleaming in afternoon light.’ The growing children in this poem feel connected to their religion and heritage in these suburban family gatherings, and it is through this feeling that the poem delineates its subjects’ style:
The tapestries were gaudy, the TV a small cube in the corner, and smoke was forever
on the air. In that, metaphor & country are one. As with every hajj, there were too many bodies
and the door was kept open for us all to spill from, an ecstasy of difference. In this, metaphor &
Arab are one: no lone place can hold in its small clay hands so many rivers
and no ark can contain us, whatever scripture commands.
Gaudy tapestries, small TVs in corners, and smoke forever on the air are metaphors for Lebanon; an excess of bodies, with their ‘ecstasy of difference,’ are a metaphor for Arabs; and in later stanzas, continuing familial rupture is a metaphor for the Middle East. The heavy use of metaphor itself (including regular visitation of grandparents as ‘hajj’) seems connected to the aesthetic the poem builds. It suggests that the gaudy, the excessive, and the metaphor-rich are true to the above subjects – that excess is broadly true to the culture. This is certainly also how Son of Sin is packaged for readers, with the cover blurb foregrounding: ‘An army of relatives.’ / ‘A tapestry of violence stretching between Turkey, Lebanon, and Western Sydney,’ in ‘a multifaceted tale brimming with angels and djinn, racist kangaroos and adoring bats’. Note the metaphorical ‘tapestry of violence’ in contrast to the literal, gaudy tapestries in the poem (which are then made metaphorical): both contribute to their pictures of excess.
Whatever you think of spareness/elegance versus excess/roughness as aesthetic categories that are culturally rooted, the novel is invested in the latter. But how well does it succeed in representing this aesthetic? The first and longest section, ‘The Night of Power,’ is by far the most lush. It begins by building up and releasing dramatic tension around fasting, over the course of a day and night during Ramadan. It has a few long magical passages, and punctuation that aids parataxis between sentences and narrative sections (to signal chronological disjuncture); is liberally peppered with the Arabic that Jamal’s family speak among themselves, with English; and is full of animated dialogue between relatives, in and out of the home. Following this section, the writing becomes sparer.
Hourani, in his review, also remarks on this shift. For him, the first section is ‘saturated and waterlogged’ with an abundance of overt cultural references, and of transliterated (and explained) Arabic. By contrast, he writes appreciatively of the poetics of the next section:
Sakr is verbing nouns when he describes a love interest as having ‘orange eyes honeycombed in the dark’. In another scene, he writes, ‘they stayed together for a minute or ten, softening’. Later, Jamal observes that ‘all we are is memory and myth, and memory fades’ – that line closes a chapter, and we as readers must sit with it, and breathe.
The appreciation here is partly for image- and metaphor-rich poetics, but also for a sparer and more elegant style of writing, which continues beyond this section, through to the end of the novel.
In the opening section, plenitude of cultural reference may be part of an authorial strategy to capture heightened experiences of adolescence: for the boy Jamal, everything is particularly vivid and intense. It is also a fact that more of his family are gathered at once, during Ramadan, which explains the rapidity of dialogue and the joyful mood approaching Iftar (the nightly breaking of the fast). Its lushness arguably has a purpose within this part of the novel. And its stylistic relaxation, from the first section to the last, is appropriate to Jamal’s developing emotional maturity. Sakr dials down the literary intensity as the narrative proceeds; the final chapter, opening with the following passage, represents the end point of this trajectory:
I used to think I was more compassionate than God. Man, the arrogance. I was such a drama queen. Still am, I guess. I see now that what I meant when I said ‘Allah’ was ‘my family.’ I was so angry, so bound up in my pain. Kassem would say that it’s not a question of hurt or wounds but of changes, and maybe that’s true, maybe my spirit had to change so often and so quickly I became a stranger even to myself, closed down, shutting myself off. Maybe that’s the only real distinction between a wound and a change: understanding. Baba, I know it’s late, but I still want to say sorry.
Jamal glanced up from his phone, his unsent email. Aunty Rania was on a stepladder in front of him, picking at the long vine leaves growing in her yard.
While this slowing might make sense in the character arc, Son of Sin’s reflexive gestures – opening with a reference to the form of the novel, and closing with a reference to the style of this novel – embed particular literary claims in the reader’s mind. This leads to a structural contradiction, or at least a discordance. The novel draws attention to its implied anti-style, to its lushness and roughness, on the third-last page. But by this late stage, the writing of Son of Sin is much less lush and rough, and seems more akin to the ‘spare, elegant novels they studied in school’. Ironically, as Jamal discovers himself, the prose sheds the version of itself it seems to value the most.
- Robert Gray, The Land I Came Through Last, Sydney: Giramondo, 2008.
- Ned Hirst, ‘Son of Sin, Omar Sakr,’ ArtsHub, 8 March 2022.
- Hasib Hourani, ‘I’m Not Hungry Anymore,’ Liminal Magazine, 3 October 2022.
- Andy Jackson, ‘Omar Sakr: Son of Sin,’ The Saturday Paper, 5 March 2022.
- Melissa Jogie, ‘Too Pale and Stale: Prescribed Texts Used for Teaching Culturally Diverse Students in England and Australia,’ Oxford Review of Education, February 2015.
- Dion Kagan, ‘Son of Sin,’ The Monthly, 1 March 2022.
- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
- Omar Sakr, These Wild Houses, Melbourne: Cordite Books, 2017.
- Omar Sakr, The Lost Arabs, Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2019.
- Omar Sakr, ‘White Flu’ in After Australia, ed. Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Melbourne: Affirm Press, 2020.
- Jay Daniel Thompson, ‘Desire’s Other Face,’ Australian Book Review, May 2022.
- Rafka Touma, ‘A queer Muslim boy comes of age in poetic, vivid debut’. The Guardian, 25 February 2022.
- Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2006.