A book by a Palestinian author
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.
We are beginning this year by reading a book by a Palestinian writer, and we’ve extended our recommendations for only this month’s challenge to include eight different titles that cover different forms and formats, including a collection of short stories edited by Refaat Alareer who was killed in Gaza in December and whose poem, “If I Must Die,” reminds us to hope, even now.
The Philistine, by Leila Marshy
Nadia Eid doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to change her life.
It’s the end of the ‘80s and she hasn’t seen her Palestinian father since he left Montreal years ago to take a job in Egypt, promising to bring her with him. But now she’s twenty-five and he’s missing in action, so she takes matters into her own hands. Booking a short vacation from her boring job and Québecois boyfriend, she calls her father from the Nile Hilton in downtown Cairo. But nothing goes as planned and, stumbling around, Nadia wanders into an art gallery where she meets Manal, a young Egyptian artist who becomes first her guide and then her lover.
Through this unexpected relationship, Nadia rediscovers her roots, her language, and her ambitions, as her father demonstrates the unavoidable destiny of becoming a Philistine – the Arabic word for Palestinian. With Manal’s career poised to take off and her father’s secret life revealed, the First Intifada erupts across the border.
Something More, by Jackie Khalilieh
A contemporary teen romance novel featuring a Palestinian-Canadian girl trying to hide her autism diagnosis while navigating her first year of high school, for fans of Jenny Han and Samira Ahmed.
Fifteen-year-old Jessie, a quirky loner obsessed with the nineties, is diagnosed as autistic just weeks before starting high school. Determined to make a fresh start and keep her diagnosis a secret, Jessie creates a list of goals that range from acquiring two distinct eyebrows to getting a magical first kiss and landing a spot in the school play. Within the halls of Holy Trinity High, she finds a world where things are no longer black and white and quickly learns that living in color is much more fun. But Jessie gets more than she bargained for when two very different boys steal her heart, forcing her to go off-script.
Palestine + 100 Stories from a Century after the Nakba, edited by Basma Ghalayini
Palestine + 100 poses a question to twelve Palestinian writers: what might your country look like in the year 2048 – a century after the tragedies and trauma of what has come to be called the Nakba. How might this event – which, in 1948, saw the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes – reach across a century of occupation, oppression, and political isolation, to shape the country and its people? Will a lasting peace finally have been reached, or will future technology only amplify the suffering and mistreatment of Palestinians?
Covering a range of approaches – from SF noir, to nightmarish dystopia, to high-tech farce – these stories use the blank canvas of the future to reimagine the Palestinian experience today. Along the way, we encounter drone swarms, digital uprisings, time-bending VR, peace treaties that span parallel universes, and even a Palestinian superhero, in probably the first anthology of science fiction from Palestine ever.
Translated from the Arabic by Raph Cormack, Mohamed Ghalaieny, Andrew Leber, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Yasmine Seale and Jonathan Wright.
The Other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope, by Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac
Christians have lived in Palestine since the earliest days of the Jesus movement.
The Palestinian church predates Islam. Yet Palestinian Christians find themselves marginalized and ostracized. In the heated tensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the voices of Palestinian Christians are often unheard and ignored.
This book provides an opportunity to hear the realities of life on the ground from a leading Palestinian pastor and theologian. Munther Isaac gives the perspective of Palestinian Christians on the other side of the separation wall surrounding most Palestinian West Bank cities today. Isaac laments the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people but holds out hope for a just peace and ways to befriend and love his Jewish and Muslim neighbors. In contrast to the dominant religious and nationalistic ideologies and agendas for the region, he offers a theology of the land and a vision for a shared land that belongs to God, where there are no second-class citizens of any kind.
“This book is my invitation to you,” Isaac writes, “to step into the other side of the wall and listen to our stories and perspective. It is my humble request to you to allow me to share how Palestinians experience God, read the Bible, and have been touched and liberated by Jesus—a fellow Bethlehemite who has challenged us to see others as neighbors and love them as ourselves. . . . This book paints a picture of our story of faith, lament, and hope. And I invite you to join and listen, on our side of the wall.”
Her First Palestinian And Other Stores, by Saeed Teebi
Elegant, surprising stories about Palestinian immigrants in Canada navigating their identities in circumstances that push them to the emotional brink.
Saeed Teebi’s intense, engrossing stories plunge into the lives of characters grappling with their experiences as Palestinian immigrants to Canada. A doctor teaches his girlfriend about his country, only for her to fall into a consuming obsession with the Middle East conflict. A math professor risks his family’s destruction by slandering the king of a despotic, oil-rich country. A university student invents an imaginary girlfriend to fit in with his callous, womanizing roommates. A lawyer takes on the impossible mission of becoming a body smuggler. A lonely widower travels to Russia in search of a movie starlet he met in his youth in historical Jaffa. A refugee who escaped violent circumstances rebels against the kindness of his sponsor. These taut and compelling stories engage the immigrant experience and reflect the Palestinian diaspora with grace and insight.
Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape, by Raja Shehadeh
When Raja Shehadeh first started hill walking in Palestine, in the late 1970s, he was not aware that he was traveling through a vanishing landscape. In recent years, his hikes have become less than bucolic and sometimes downright dangerous. That is because his home is Ramallah, on the Palestinian West Bank, and the landscape he traverses is now the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel.
In this original and evocative book, we accompany Raja on six walks taken between 1978 and 2006. The earlier forays are peaceful affairs, allowing our guide to meditate at length on the character of his native land, a terrain of olive trees on terraced hillsides, luxuriant valleys carved by sacred springs, carpets of wild iris and hyacinth and ancient monasteries built more than a thousand years ago. Shehadeh’s love for this magical place saturates his renderings of its history and topography. But latterly, as seemingly endless concrete is poured to build settlements and their surrounding walls, he finds the old trails are now impassable and the countryside he once traversed freely has become contested ground. He is harassed by Israeli border patrols, watches in terror as a young hiking companion picks up an unexploded missile and even, on one occasion when accompanied by his wife, comes under prolonged gunfire.
Amid the many and varied tragedies of the Middle East, the loss of a simple pleasure such as the ability to roam the countryside at will may seem a minor matter. But in Palestinian Walks, Raja Shehadeh’s elegy for his lost footpaths becomes a heartbreaking metaphor for the deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.
Rifqa, by Mohammed El-Kurd
Each day after school, Mohammed El-Kurd’s grandmother welcomed him at the door of his home with a bouquet of jasmine. Her name was Rifqa—she was older than Israel itself and an icon of Palestinian resilience. With razor-sharp wit and glistening moral clarity, El-Kurd lays bare the brutality of Israeli settler colonialism. His poems trace Rifqa’s exile from Haifa to his family’s current dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, exposing the cyclical and relentless horror of the Nakba. El-Kurd’s debut collection definitively shows that the Palestinian struggle is a revolution, until victory.
Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from young writers in Gaza Palestine, edited by Refaat Alareer
Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, edited by Refaat Alareer is a compelling collection of short stories from fifteen young writers in Gaza, members of a generation that has suffered immensely under Israel’s siege and blockade.
Their experiences, especially during and following Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive known as “Operation Cast Lead”, have fundamentally impacted their lives and their writing. Indeed, many of these writers saw the war as a catalyst for their writing, as they sought an outlet and a voice in its aftermath. They view the book as a means of preserving Palestinian memories and presenting their own narratives to the world without filters. Their words take us into the homes and hearts of moms, dads, students, children, and elders striving to live lives of dignity, compassion, and meaning in one of the world’s most embattled communities. Some of the stories also take us with courage and empathy into the imagined world of Israelis living just on the other side of the great barriers Israel has built in and around Gaza and the West Bank to wall the Palestinians in.
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