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Etaf Rum says her next novel, 'Evil Eye,' was inspired by a curse

The author of the Read With Jenna pick "A Woman Is No Man" said her next book explores the idea of the evil eye, "a supernatural belief in a curse brought upon by a malevolent glare."
Etaf Rum

Etaf Rum's 2019 novel, "A Woman Is No Man," was chosen as a Read With Jenna pick. The book followed three women in a Palestinian family over the years as they each grapple with how their role and ambitions intersect.

"It's about what is acceptable for a woman — how a woman can use her voice," Jenna told TODAY of the book. "And to see these women change, and to see their idea of what they can be change over generations is really the story of so many women."

For those of you who read "A Woman Is No Man" and loved it, you're in luck: Rum is exclusively sharing a preview of her upcoming novel, "Evil Eye," with TODAY.

"The characters live in a world very similar to the one in 'A Woman Is No Man' and the stories shares some thematic elements as well — grief, the power of art and self-expression, and a desire for a more fulfilling life," Rum told TODAY of the book, out in March 2023.

See the cover of 'Evil Eye' by Etaf Rum

Rum said she "screamed" in her "small town grocery store" when she finally saw the book cover. "I'm still obsessing over how it captures the themes of the novel so beautifully. It reminds me of the hamsa amulets I often saw growing up, hanging in my grandmother’s home to protect her family from bad luck or dangling from the necks of women in my community to ward off envy," Rum said

Like "A Woman Is No Man," the new novel, out March 2023, follows a Palestinian woman living in Brooklyn and later, outside the city. Yara was raised in a conservative family and thought she found freedom through her marriage to a charming entrepreneur.

The official description reads: "She’s gotten to follow her dreams, completing an undergraduate degree in Art and landing a good job at the local college. As a traditional wife, she also raises their two school-aged daughters, takes care of the house, and has dinner ready when her husband gets home. With her family balanced with her professional ambitions, Yara knows that her life is infinitely more rewarding than her own mother’s. So why doesn’t it feel like enough?"

When Yara chaperones a student trip to Europe, tension from her past reaches its boiling point. She ends up being put on probation at work. From there, other parts of her life implode, forcing confrontations.

"To save herself, Yara must reckon with the reality that the difficulties of the childhood she thought she left behind have very real — and damaging — implications not just on her own future but that of her daughters," the description reads.

"Evil Eye" by Etaf Rum

Rum said that the novel was inspired by a concept from her childhood. "I was mainly inspired by the Evil Eye — a supernatural belief in a curse brought upon by a malevolent glare — which was a common superstition in my household growing up, as well as my Palestinian-American community in Brooklyn," she said.

Through writing the book, Rum gained an understanding of her own life. "Writing is how I make sense of myself and my place in the world, and I wanted to capture how something as innocuous as an old superstition belief can find its way into our understanding of ourself and the world around us," the author said.

"Evil Eye" will be available on March 14, 2023.


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