By Ardo Omer
At the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), we believe that reading is a critical skill and that reading diversely – across genres, forms, and cultures – fosters empathy and understanding. Each year, we try and think about ways to transform our own reading habits – to fill in gaps, and to spark important conversations. With that in mind, we are beginning the year by reading as book by a Palestinian writer.
Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
In this breathtaking and timely story, Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.
2) We Are Palestinian: A Celebration of Culture and Tradition by Reem Kassis, illustrated by Noha Eilouti (Middle Grade)
From culture and food, to music and literature, We Are Palestinian is a celebration of Palestinian heritage. Brought to life by award-winning writer Reem Kassis, every spread is filled with wonderful anecdotes, fascinating facts, and memorable quotes. It is beautifully illustrated by Noha Eilouti, an emerging Palestinian-Canadian illustrator.
Discover ALL about the history of iconic Palestinian symbols like tatreez embroidery, or the inspiration behind Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. As you turn every page, you’ll find yourself lost in the world of Dabke (the folk dance of Palestine) and amazed by its famous old cities; you’ll try traditional food like knafeh, explore the different religions, and find out much more. Each spread of We Are Palestinian is accessible, richly inspiring, and visually stunning.
Young readers are going to love discovering more about Palestine. This is the perfect book for parents, educators, and caregivers wishing to explore new worlds of culture and custom with children!
It’s 1967 in Nablus, Palestine.
Oraib loves the olive trees that grow outside the refugee camp where she lives. Each harvest, she and her mama pick the small fruits and she eagerly stomp stomp stomps on them to release their golden oil. Olives have always tied her family to the land, as Oraib learns from the stories Mama tells of a home before war.
But war has come to their door once more, forcing them to flee. Even as her family is uprooted, Oraib makes a solemn promise to her beloved olive trees. She will see to it that their legacy lives on for generations to come.
Debut author-illustrator Aya Ghanameh boldly paints a tale of bitterness, hope, and the power of believing in a free and thriving future.