In You Exist Too Much, Zaina Arafat writes a powerful narrative about an unnamed narrator who is a bisexual Palestinian-American woman afflicted with love addiction. One night, when the narrator comes out to her religious Palestinian mother over dinner, her mother embarrassingly denies her and publicly admits her disappointment for all to hear. Ashamed of the extent to which her daughter has always felt her emotions, her mother confesses one day, “You exist too much.”
You Exist Too Much takes readers through a journey of discovering sexual identity amid young adulthood pressures. When the narrator cannot contain her desires to love and be loved, she makes irrational decisions that lead to her self-destruction.
Accepting that she has a problem, the narrator admits herself into a treatment program where she learns she has a love addiction. The program helps her dig deep into her past as she recounts her life’s toxic sexual affairs. She also uncovers the effects her parents’ abusive relationship has had on her.
Zaina Arafat does a commendable job at effectively describing the pressures that arise at the intersection of being Middle Eastern, bisexual, and female. Initially, the narrator’s self-destructive tendencies and apparent poor decision-making pose a significant turn-off.
However, throughout the book, there is a growing sense of relatability. It takes us many attempts to learn a valuable life lesson. Learning about family wounds of the past is essential in the discovery of who we are. As the narrator comes closer to identifying the person’s love she desires most, she finds that she can overcome her addiction.
From You Exist Too Much, we learn that the process of overcoming any hardship involves journeying to your past. In response to “You exist too much,” the narrator realizes that feeling everything is power in overcoming personal struggles, not an inhibitor.
Coming of age; LGBT literature; trauma response; sexual identity; emotional healing; therapy; millennial
“I am lost in my mother’s possibility, in what could’ve been, caught between her frustrated potential and desire to fulfill my own. I lament the disappointments that have come from surrendering her approval to pursue my own desires. I lament what she’s given up for me. Our mutual sacrifice creates wounds that may never heal. I will carry sadness for her pain, and also for mine. In receiving love from others, it will always be hers I crave most.”
“In acquiring my gender, I had become offensive.”
“You exist too much.”