October 10, 2023

Pauls Toutonghi’s New Novel Named a Barnes & Noble ‘Discover Pick’

Professor of English Pauls Toutonghi’s newest novel, The Refugee Ocean, has been named one of Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Picks of the Month” for October. Toutonghi will discuss the book at Powell’s City of Books on Sunday, October 15, at 7 p.m.

Book cover of The Refugee Ocean Professor of English Pauls Toutonghi’s new novel, The Refugee Ocean (Simon & Schuster, October 2023), has been chosen by Barnes & Noble as the October pick for its “Discover Great New Writers” series.

Toutoungi will discuss the book at Powell’s City of Books on Sunday, October 15, at 7 p.m. in conversation with writer Jon Raymond.

Book Description

The Refugee Ocean grapples with what it means to be an immigrant,” says Toutonghi. “It shows how wounds can heal, and highlights the role of music and art in the resilience of the human spirit.”

The Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers webpage describes the book this way: “With two plots that jump around time and place, and characters that are immediate and real, The Refugee Ocean is as masterfully told as it is emotionally satisfying. It grapples with complex topics that will leave the reader deep in thought, contemplating long after that final page.”

According to Barnes & Noble, the novel tells the story of Marguerite Toutoungi, born in Beirut in 1922, who lives a life of loss and sacrifice.

“She dreams of traveling to Europe and studying music at the Conservatoire de Paris, but her family—and her society—hold her back. When she meets the son of a Cuban tobacco farmer at a formal dance, love transforms her life. Together with him, she flees across the Pacific Ocean. She’s hoping for a new beginning. Instead, she finds revolution and chaos.

“Over fifty years later, Naïm Rahil is a teenage refugee from Aleppo, Syria. A former piano prodigy who struggles to thrive in America—and who has lost part of his hand in the war—he dreams of a simple, normal life.”

The story moves from Aleppo on the brink of civil war, to Lebanon in the late 1940s, to Havana during the Cuban Revolution, to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Pauls Toutonghi posing outside. He is wearing a dark suit. Professor of English Pauls Toutonghi
Credit: Steve Hambuchen
An Award-Winning Writer

Toutonghi is a first-generation American. A winner of the Pushcart Prize, he has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Granta, Tin House, and numerous other periodicals. His most recent book Dog Gone—a nonfiction narrative—was published by Knopf in 2016 and made into a Netflix movie. His teaching focus is on fiction and creative nonfiction.