Chicago Review of Books is excited to feature the cover reveal of Nada Samih-Rotondo’s debut memoir, All Water Has Perfect Memory (out September 2023 with Jaded Ibis Press).
The blurb, author bio, and quotes that follow are all courtesy of the book’s publicist, Addie Tsai/ Levee Break Lit: “Life changed forever for six year old Nada following Iraq’s invasion of her birth country Kuwait and subsequent immigration to the United States with her maternal family. Just as she finally settles into her strange new life apart from her father in Rhode Island, learns English, and grasps the fact that she is not merely visiting, but is here to stay, life throws other surprises her way to forever change her world. A debut work from a Palestinian American author, All Water Has Perfect Memory is a memoir that takes readers from the author’s ancestral origins, the coast of Yaffa, Palestine, to her birthplace of Kuwait, eventually landing on the shores of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The narrative confronts generations of silence and ultimately, revelation with an imaginative blend of folklore and history that explores the relationship between our bodies, ancestors, and the Earth. The work explores the way the author is intertwined with her maternal line while reuniting with her father after a 30-year separation. Voices once hidden in the waters of our bodies are amplified and released to forever alter the landscape, breaking cycles and seeding an audacious hope interconnected to lands past and present.”
Nada Samih-Rotondo is a multi-genre Palestinian American writer, educator, and mother. A graduate of Rhode Island College, she earned degrees in English and Education and an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. When she is not befriending trees or attuning to hidden stories, she is leading transformational educational experiences and addressing the social-emotional needs of historically underserved and multilingual youth. Her writing has appeared in Masters Review, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, and Squat Birth Journal. She lives in Providence with her husband and three children and works at Brown University’s Simmon’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice as the Public Education and Community Engagement Coordinator.
She and Jewel Mailloux, the cover designer of All Water Has Perfect Memory, go way back. “We met during a tumultuous time in my life. I was teaching in an afterschool program, which is where I met Jewel. We were both pregnant, and began sharing resources with one another,” explained Nada.
“Nada was a source of strength and knowledge, and we really bonded over being new mothers,” said Jewel. “Our friendship is as old as our kids, almost 15 years. We’re both weirdos. Weirdos gotta stick together, which has been a throughline in our relationship as well.”
Because of their long-standing friendship, Jewel has been designing for Nada for several years, mostly invitations for personal and family occasions. “This memoir is incredibly personal, intense material,” Nada shared. “Jewel was one of my first readers as a friend and a writer. Somewhere in that process, I realized I needed to have Jewel design the cover. What I need is my best friend’s art as this protective loving energy on the book. She’s going to imbue it with this protective magic like no one else. This story is so much bigger than me—it’s a story of intergenerational trauma. I didn’t want a stranger who doesn’t grasp the gravity of what I just accomplished to design the cover. It has to be her.”
Jewel said, “The only true direction Nada gave me was that there had to be a mermaid on the cover. I was inspired by the pearl divers, this old ancient artisanal practice that is dying out. I was able to connect the mermaid with the pearl divers, which is why they both are featured on the cover. The mermaid has distinctly Middle Eastern features, which we often don’t see in representations of mermaids—aquiline nose, dark curly hair. And I placed the barnacles and shells on the mermaid to mimic Nada’s tattoo sleeves. This is a really atypical story compared to what we read about Middle Eastern women. I wanted it to read Middle Eastern but not to fall into any stereotype. They would see Palestine. The lemons, olives, and oranges are important because they are the symbols of Palestine and the flora from Rhode Island—the lavender, the violets, as well as the monarch—are reaching for each other. Water is a huge part of the cover and I see these places as feeling disparate, but through water both Kuwait and Rhode Island are connected. That’s why the waves are so prominent.”
“The landscape was really the first friend I had when I left Kuwait and came to Rhode Island,” shared Nada. “The land was a completely different language. The landscape was my first conversation.”
We’re happy to launch the cover reveal on Eid-al-fitr because, as Nada explains, “Eid al-fitr is a celebration that marks the end of the sacred month of Ramadan and is a time of celebration and spending time with loved ones. It is fitting to launch my cover during Eid because it very much feels like a celebration after a period of deep reflection and spiritual growth. Writing this book also allowed me to convene with my ancestors in order to come home to myself which is a feeling worth celebrating.”