The House of Youssef
This debut collection of short stories by Yumna Kassab is remarkable for its minimalism. Set in the suburbs of Western Sydney, it portrays the lives of Lebanese immigrants, and their families. The stories revolve around their hopes and regrets, their feelings of isolation, and their nostalgia for what they might have lost or left behind. In particular, The House of Youssef is about relationships, and the customs which complicate them: children growing away from their parents, parents anxious about their children’s futures, the intricacies of marriage, the breakable bonds of friendship. The stories are told with an extreme economy – some are only two pages long – and a spareness of detail which heightens their emotional intensity.
There are two sequences of stories, composed of vignettes which focus on moments of domestic crisis, and which combine, in the second sequence, to chart the demise of a single family, ‘the House of Youssef’. Kassab then expands the short form, through elaboration, into two extended soliloquies. ‘Homing’ expresses the longing of an old man for the homeland he will never return to. ‘Darkness, Speak’ is a mother’s testament, addressed to her daughter, about how things have gone for her in this new country.
pp : 288
Published : September 2019