Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Identity

By Helene Wecker


You wouldn't think that the Golem and the Jinni would have trouble with their identities in a book called The Golem and the Jinni. But they can't just walk about New York saying, "Hello, I'm a Jinni, a creature borne from the fires of the desert," or, "Hi, I'm a Golem, a creature made from clay who wants to serve you. Would you like fries with that?" Instead, these two creatures have to figure out what it means to be human in a city full of them. And the humans are trying to figure it out, too, since they're almost all immigrants, working to discover what it means to be American.

Questions About Identity

  1. How do the Golem and the Jinni incorporate their given names (Chava and Ahmad) as part of their identity? What does this tell you to how they relate to looking human?
  2. How does the name-choosing process for each character differ? How is the way in which they choose, or are assigned, their names appropriate for their personalities?
  3. How do the characters who immigrate to New York (like Schaalman and Saleh) have to change their identity? How is their experience similar to that of the Golem and the Jinni?

Chew on This

The Golem has an easier time pretending to be human because she can sense people's emotions—she knows what they want, and how to accommodate them.

The Jinni has a more difficult time being human because he has spent so many years feeling superior to people. To be human, to him, is a step down.