Tariq is not sure where he really belongs or where he would rather be. School brings tedium at best, taunts and threats at worst. At home he can’t seem to please his increasingly devout father or dispel his mother’s growing dislocation and her creeping distance from her husband. Tariq’s only solace is music, be it the classical pieces from class or the choubi songs passed on by his uncle Rahim. The only ally of his own age is Rachel, his Jewish classmate. She will not let Tariq’s Islamic Iraqi background define how she – or the wider community – sees him.
Shamed and sore from an embarrassing beating, Tariq forms a new friendship with the volatile but intriguing record-shop owner, Jamal, who helps Tariq discover the world of jazz. Amidst the dust and grooves of the vinyl, in the glow of Coltrane’s amber sound, Tariq senses, for the first time, the different possibilities that are his to decide and fashion.
But when the violence, long simmering in the atmosphere, finally erupts, Tariq is forced to navigate a delicate path between family, friends and faith. He takes the ultimate risk – for his friend and for his enemy equally – and the disparate worlds of modern America and traditional Islam come together in an unexpected and gripping resolution.
Peace and violence, faith and mistrust, thriller and literary fiction – this is a supreme story of a young man caught between two worlds.
Siobhán Parkinson of Little Island, publisher, says, ‘Kevin Stevens is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. He is a very fine writer with an ear for the rhythms of language; he has a well-tuned empathy with people whose concerns are often pushed to the margins by western culture; he is passionate about the power of music to nourish the human spirit. He has brought all these concerns to A Lonely Note, and the result is an utterly beautiful novel about growing up male and Muslim in modern America.’
PRAISE FOR A LONELY NOTE
‘Gripping, engaging and beautifully told’ – Dublin Review of Books
‘What Stevens excels in are the descriptions of Tariq’s adolescent disquietude. And how universal a feeling is that? Not only is this a teenage circumstance but one that anyone who has gone through a crisis in any stage of life is sure to recognise, relate to and appreciate reading about when it’s written this well.’ – Irish Independent
‘I loved this book. Its tender, intelligent interrogation of male adolescent desperation is unflinching, as is its take on other big subjects: school bullying, what it’s like to be the only son of Iraqi Muslim migrants living and working in the US, religion, post-traumatic stress disorder, the contested limits of parental control, jazz and sex, with the sex – praise the Lord – so delicately portrayed that the young people retain their dignity.’ – The Irish Times (Rosita Sweetman)
‘When authoring a story which explores ethnic dynamics and divides, it is one task to write a story which describes difference and exclusion, and the hardships that this can create. It is another task to describe the wish to choose a life that is not culturally ascribed to you, not because it might ease the hardships, but because it feels natural. Kevin Stevens eloquently succeeds in doing both, and in bringing all of the dynamics of sameness and difference together in this engaging and refreshingly honest book.’ – Gobblefunked