Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni

By Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni Introduction

Fairytales, fables, and myths are full of lazy people. Goldilocks wants to saunter in somewhere and have her meals and beds ready made for her; Aladdin wants a genie to grant all his wishes; Jack (take your pick from the countless fairytale characters named Jack) wants a goose that lays golden eggs so he never has to do anything again. Why doesn't anyone want to work?

The flipside of these bums, of course, are the mythological creatures who live to serve. Helene Wecker took two such creatures who are traditionally always at your service—the golem, a clay servant from Jewish folklore, and the jinni (a.k.a. genie), a fiery man-creature from Arabic lore—and put them both into her debut novel called, what else, The Golem and the Jinni. The novel is part historical fiction and part fantasy, blending ancient folklore with American history at the turn of the 20th century.

Published in 2013—over a hundred years after the story is set—the book follows a golem and a jinni as they make their way in New York City, learning to adapt to the Big Apple while dealing with their own natures… oh, and being pursued by the crazy wizard who made the Golem and enslaved the Jinni. So, it's like Bride of Chucky meets Aladdin meets Gangs of New York meets Harry Potter.You can't get much better than that.

People love this mash-up of ideas. The Golem and the Jinni was Amazon's Best Book of the Month for April 2013, and Goodreads readers nominated the book for Best Fantasy of 2013 (it came in third), as well as nominating Wecker herself for Best Debut Author. Not too shabby for a first-time novel.

So if you're looking for a book chock full of history, magic, adventure, and just a little bit of romance, your wish has been granted with The Golem and the Jinni.

What is The Golem and the Jinni About and Why Should I Care?

Have you noticed that we sometimes seem to learn the most about what it's like to be human through the experiences of non-humans? Think: the shrewd animals of Animal Farm, the analytical aliens of The Host, the manipulative, bickering robots of Real HousewivesWait, what? Those women are people? Could have fooled us…

The Golem and the Jinni is one of those books about the human experience. Specifically, it's about finding yourself in a new place, trying to make friends and fit in—you know, making your way in the world today. But its main characters aren't human. Like the Real Housewives, the Golem looks like a woman on the outside, but she is totally hollow on the inside. Unlike the Real Housewives, the Golem might actually have a soul. That's just one of the many themes up for debate here.

The Jinni, too, is a supernatural creature that just happens to be stuck in human form. It's hard enough to fit into a big city like New York when you've never been there, but it's even harder when you're not even human. So if you're wondering how you will make it on your own, check out The Golem and the Jinni. If these not-people people can make it after all, you can, too.

The Golem and the Jinni Resources

WEBSITES

Wecking Ball
Helene Wecker's website is a better resource than a wish-granting jinni to get more information about the book.

The Jinni and the Publisher
Want to find other books like this one? Your wish is Harper Collins's command. They have info about the book, and future reading recommendations for you.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Battlestar Trek-lactica
Wecker didn't just get inspiration for classical folklore, but from modern sci-fi, too. Beam her up.

A Simple Plan
The Golem and the Jinni was a working title for Wecker's book about a golem and a jinni. Turned out it was the perfect fit, so it stuck.

Oops… She Did It… The First Time
Wecker says she "accidentally" wrote a historical fantasy. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

More Molds
Who knew that there's a whole reading list of books about golems?

Only a Story
The New York Times loved this book, which is more than just a combination of folklore.

VIDEO

Tongue Untied
Wecker reads (say that five times fast) from her book and answers audience questions.

Trailing Behind
We might not have a The Golem and the Jinni movie (yet), but the next best thing is this short teaser trailer for the book.

AUDIO

Radio Free Golem
If you wanted a book club discussion for this book, your wish has been granted.

Tell Us a Story
Like one of tales from Arabian Nights, The Golem and the Jinni sounds like it was made to be read aloud.

IMAGES

Arch Deluxe
Here's the arch at Madison Square visited by the Golem and the Jinni, as it looked in the early 1900s. We tried to spot the Jinni in the photo, but can't find him.

Feet of Clay
This Golem reproduction is a little less shapely than the hero of our story.