Written on four continents over seven years, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah (W.W. Norton, 2017) is the hard-won first book by journalist, sociologist, comedian and sometime trumpeter Adam Valen Levinson. For Adam, "Nine Eleven" was enough to shroud the Middle East in fear, and to imbue it with the sort of curiosity where a kind of love comes from.
Love and fear are powerful drivers, the thirteen-country travelogue says: and often exactly away from where we think they're taking us. Adam was a belated bar-mitzvah, an elementary school grade-skipper and a late-to-grow short-kid-turned-kind-of-tall — The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah is the product of a long time spent growing up, thinking about growing up, and thinking about thinking about what it means to be childish at the scale of just one guy, and at the scale of an entire country.
Drawing on the travel writing traditions of Pico Iyer and Jonathan Raban, and all the can't tell me nothings of Kanye West, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah is new American travel writing.
Written out of sheer obsession.
- Adam Valen Levinson