A young, queer Palestinian American woman pieces together her great-aunt’s secrets in this sweeping debut, confronting questions of sexual identity, exile, and lineage.
In a Pacific Northwest hospital far from the Rummani family’s ancestral home in Palestine, the heart of a stillborn baby begins to beat and her skin turns vibrantly, permanently cobalt blue. On the same day, the Rummanis’ centuries-old soap factory in Nablus is destroyed in an air strike. The family matriarch and keeper of their lore, Aunt Nuha, believes that the blue girl embodies their sacred history, harkening back to a time when the Rummanis were among the wealthiest soap-makers and their blue soap was a symbol of a legendary love.
Decades later, Betty returns to Aunt Nuha’s gravestone, faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay in the only country she’s ever known, or should she follow her heart and the woman she loves, perpetuating her family’s cycle of exile? Betty finds her answer in partially translated notebooks that reveal her aunt’s complex life and struggle with her own sexuality, which Nuha hid to help the family immigrate to the United States. But, as Betty soon discovers, her aunt hid much more than that.
The Skin and Its Girl is a searing, poetic tale about desire and identity, and a provocative exploration of how we let stories divide, unite, and define us–and wield even the power to restore a broken family. Sarah Cypher is that rare debut novelist who writes with the mastery and flair of a seasoned storyteller.