The award-winning stories in Dima Alzayat’s collection, Alligator and Other Stories, are luminous and tender, whether dealing with a woman preforming burial rites for her brother in “Ghusl,” or the great-aunt struggling to explain cultural identity to her niece in “Once We Were Syrians.”
Alzayat’s stories are rich and relatable, chronicling a sense of displacement through everyday scenarios. There is the intern in pre-#MeToo Hollywood of “Only Those Who Struggle Succeed,” the New York City children on the lookout for a place to play on the heels of Etan Patz’s kidnapping in “Disappearance,” or the “dangerous” women of “The Daughters of Manāt” who struggle to assert their independence.
The title story, “Alligator,” is a masterpiece of historical reconstruction and intergenerational trauma, told in an epistolary format through social media posts, newspaper clippings, and testimonials, that starts with the true story of the lynching of a Syrian immigrant couple by law officers in small-town Florida. Placed in a wider context of U.S. racial violence, the extrajudicial deaths, and what happens to the couple’s children and their children’s children in the years after, challenges the demands of American assimilation and its limits.
Alligator and Other Stories is haunting, spellbinding, and unforgettable, while marking Dima Alzayat’s arrival as a tremendously gifted new talent.
Dima Alzayat was born in Damascus, Syria, grew up in San Jose, California, and now lives in Manchester, U.K. She was the winner of a 2018 Northern Writers' Award, the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize and 2015 Bernice Slote Award, runner-up in the 2018 Deborah Rogers Award and the 2018 Zoetrope: All-Story Competition, and was Highly Commended in the 2013 Bridport Prize. Her stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Bristol Short Story Award Anthology, Bridport Prize Anthology, and Enizagam.