The Arts: Fiction / Poetry / Photography

This page presents books previously featured as New and Notable. Titles are listed by year of publication (newest-oldest) and then alphabetically by author surname.














Terri Ginsberg. Films of Arab Loutfi and Heiny Srour: Studies in Palestine Solidarity Cinema (Palgrave Pivot, 2021)

Publisher’s description: This book places long overdue focus on the Palestine solidarity films of two important Arab women directors whose cinematic works have never received due attention within the scholarly literature or the cultural public sphere. Through an analysis that situates these largely overlooked films within the matrix of an anti-Zionist critique of cinematic ontology, this book offers a materialist feminist appreciation of their political aesthetics while critiquing the ideological enabling conditions of their academic absenting. The study of these daring films fosters a much-needed, sustained understanding of the meaning and significance of Palestine solidarity filmmaking for and within the Arab world.

Reviews: none yet available


Yara Hawari. The Stone House (Hajar Press, 2021)

Publisher’s description: The year is 1968. The recent Arab defeat in the Naksa has led to the loss of all of historic Palestine. In the midst of violent political upheaval, Mahmoud, a young Palestinian boy living in the Galilee, embarks on a school trip to visit the West Bank for the first time. For Mahmoud, his mother and his grandmother, the journey sets off a flood of memories, tracing moments that bond three generations together. How do these personal experiences become collective history? Why do some feel guilty for surviving war? Is it strange to long for a time never lived? In this groundbreaking novella, Yara Hawari harnesses the enduring power of memory in defiance of the constrictions on Palestinian life. Against a system bent on the erasure of their people, the family’s perseverance is unbroken in the decades-long struggle for their stone house.


‘Yara Hawari’s novella traces three generations of Palestinians, and how their memory and notions of identity have each been ruptured by the Nakba. Filled with visceral descriptions of life under occupation, The Stone House is a must-read’ – The New Arab


Sahar Khalifeh. My First and Only Love (Hoopoe Fiction, 2021)

Publisher’s description: The latest novel from renowned Palestinian writer Sahar Khalifeh, a deeply poetic account of love and resistance through a young girl’s eyes. Nidal, after many decades of restless exile, returns to her family home in Nablus, where she had lived with her grandmother before the 1948 Nakba that scattered her family across the globe. She was a young girl when the popular resistance began and, through the bloodshed and bitter struggle, Nidal fell in love with freedom fighter Rabie. He was her first and only real love – him and all that he represented: Palestine in its youth and spring, the resistance fighters in the hills, the nation as embodied in her family home and in the land. Many years later, Nidal and Rabie meet, and he encourages her to read her uncle Amin’s memoirs. She immerses herself in the details of her family and national past and discovers that her absent mother had been nurse and lover to Palestinian leader Abdel-Qader al-Husseini. Set in the final days of the British Mandate, Sahar Khalifeh’s spins an epic tale filled with emotional urgency and political immediacy.


‘Long-lost love is just the starting point for Sahar Khalifeh’s sixth novel, My First and Only Love, but don’t let the title deceive you, it’s so much more than that. The book travels back and forth in time, across decades, examining the way family, politics, and friendship are shaped by violence and war, and whether or not collective memory of such things is set in stone (…) The story’s feminist undertones belie the narrative’s time period and setting. A significant theme is whether or not a woman can find fulfilment without having children. Some of the strongest characters in the book are women, Nidal’s grandmother among them, who feel equally capable of having careers as they do of running households. It helps to ground the romantic plot lines, which could have easily turned melodramatic under the direction of a less capable writer’ – Words Without Borders


Akram Musallam. The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion (Seagull Books, 2021)

Publisher’s description: On a plastic chair in a parking lot in Ramallah sits a young man writing a novel, reflecting on his life: working in a dance club on the Israeli side of the border, scratching his father’s amputated leg, dreaming nightly of a haunting scorpion, witnessing the powerful aura of his mountain-lodging aunt. His work in progress is a meditation on absence, loss, and emptiness. He poses deep questions: What does it mean to exist? How can you confirm the existence of a place, a person, a limb? How do we engage with what is no longer there? Absurd at times, raw at others, The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion explores Palestinian identity through Akram Musallam’s extended metaphors in the hope of transcending the loss of territory and erasure of history.


‘The narrator of The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion, Akram Musallam’s metafictional meditation on loss, identity and emptiness, is at the mercy of his own pen as he endeavours to commit his own story to the page, a story which finds him at the intersection of a lineage bound by village and familial legend and a series of events that define the history of Palestine in the first decade of the twenty-first century. He is his own anti-hero, haunted by successive losses, disappearances and absences that undermine his efforts to write himself into being. The resulting novel-about-a-novel-about-loss, by turns melancholic and absurd, thus becomes a mirror of much larger questions haunting the Palestinian imagination (…) [A]lthough its premise may sound bleak, this playful tale manages to be both sorrowful and fun to read. The magic lies in its charming and determined narrative voice’ – roughghosts


Yousif M. Qasmiyeh. Writing the Camp (Broken Sleep Books, 2021)

Publisher’s description: Yousif M Qasmiyeh’s Writing the Camp is an exceptional, essential collection drawn from the poet’s experience of the Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon. The poetry moves beyond the observational into a philosophical meditation on the existential nature of place. Qasmiyeh asks ‘Where is time?’, crossing footprints of Derrida, ‘To experience is to advance by navigating, to walk by traversing’. Writing the Camp is a brave and beautiful work, one which will surely be of historical importance.


‘Yousif Qasmiyeh shatters and reconstructs a traditional conception of time in order to understand how time enigmatically exists in the Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon. How does one measure time when one is itinerant, always waiting, in between? How does one track past time that feels erased, inaccessible, or uprooted? These questions are not answerable in any neat or comprehensive wayBut Qasmiyeh’s poems live in these unknowns and require readers to embrace time’s elusiveness’ – Writers Make Worlds

‘This phenomenal collection defies easy categorisation: the poems compel the reader to question, to renegotiate, to dwell on the fluidity of memory, identity and trauma. Yousif M Qasmiyeh’s language is deliberate, thought-provoking, rooted in the particular: it asks the reader to slow down, to dwell on the juxtaposition of words and ideas, to grapple with the immensities contained within the lines’ – PN Review


Kamal Boullata. There Where You Are Not: Selected Writings (Hirmer Publishers, 2020)

Publisher’s description: There Where You Are Not brings together the writings of celebrated Palestinian artist and theorist Kamal Boullata (1942–2019). Produced over four decades of exile in Europe, North Africa, and the United States, the essays explore intersections between aesthetics, history, and politics that are central to the historiography of modern Arab art. The experience of exile and the imperatives of resistance permeate the essays, whose subjects range from autobiography to contemporary art, early ruminations on gender relations, language and the visual, to questions of identity and globalisation. Taken collectively, they explore intersections between aesthetics, history, and politics that are central to the historiography of modern Arab art.


‘From critical theory, to cultural and historical studies, to poetic and philosophical essays, this collection of Boullata’s work constantly navigates between art and autobiography, which are intertwined with the author’s practice, as reflected in the first chapter. The texts convey the ambiguities of his struggle with belonging by operating, on the one hand, as all-encompassing transhistoric and transregional readings of culture, while, on the other hand, constantly searching for the roots of “Arabness” or the essence of “Palestinian” or “Semitic” identities against the backdrop of colonial projects. Although some of the author’s discussions regarding questions of Arabness deserve critical reappraisal in light of today’s debates on identity politics, Boullata’s timely claim for art as a possible means for revolution and for a reterritorialization of cultural memory resonates with our current context (…) Taken as a whole, this collection offers key documents for scholars interested in the study of visual arts and aesthetics in the Arab world. It provides a decolonial account of transregional modernism as experienced and analysed from the margins, while opening many paths for reflecting on contemporary art and issues of belonging, resistance, and identity. More significantly, it offers a much-needed alternative account to traditional art historical narratives and theories of aesthetics by proposing original and decentred approaches to modernism, particularly abstraction’ – CAA Reviews


Victoria Brittain. Love and Resistance in the Films of Mai Masri (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

Publisher’s description: This book covers Mai Masri’s three decades documenting iconic moments of Palestinian and Lebanese linked history. Her films, unique for giving agency to her subjects, tell much about the untold, unseen people, namely women and children, who lived these experiences of war and occupation. Former Lebanese political prisoner Soha Bechara praised her feature film 3000 Nights as ‘the “Lest we forget” of Palestine’. Her focus on the social and political climates of the vivid lives of unseen people connects to the deepening violence in Palestine today.


‘In this, the first book analyzing the work of Mai Masri, the most celebrated and prolific contemporary Arab woman filmmaker, journalist Victoria Brittain weaves a rich tapestry that introduces readers to Masri’s films and the experiences that shaped her life (…) This book is accessible for a general audience interested in the lives of everyday Lebanese and Palestinians during the last five decades of resistance and is an excellent supplementary text for college courses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Lebanese Civil War, the First Intifada, refugee issues, women’s studies, and filmmaking. There is significant overlap and repetition in the ten chapters, however’ – Journal of Palestine Studies


Sahar Khalifeh. Passage to the Plaza (Seagull Books, 2020)

 Publisher’s description: In Bab Al-Saha, a quarter of Nablus, Palestine, sits a house of ill-repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracized from and shamed by her community. When the Intifada breaks out, Nuzha’s abode unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for those in the quarter: Hussam, an injured resistance fighter; Samar, a university researcher exploring the impact of the Intifada on women’s lives; and Sitt Zakia, the pious midwife. In the furnace of conflict at the heart of the 1987 Intifada, notions of freedom, love, respectability, nationhood, the rights of women and Palestinian identity—both among the reluctant residents of the house and the inhabitants of the quarter at large—will be melted and re-forged. Vividly recounted through the eyes of its female protagonists, Passage to the Plaza is a ground-breaking story that shatters the myth of a uniform gendered experience of conflict.


Bab as-Saha, which has been retitled Passage to the Plaza in Sawad Hussain’s vibrant translation, is set during the early days of the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993). Like many of Sahar Khalifeh’s novels, it centres on a significant historical moment that we expect to see from a bird’s-eye view, or through the eyes of “newsworthy” men. But instead of showing us UN resolutions or speeches or arrests, this novel brings us down into the rich, contradictory and difficult lives of ordinary women (…) It is a delight to read this fast-paced, theatrical, witty novel in English translation while the original is marking its 30th anniversary. Rather than feeling out of date, Passage to the Plaza reflects the past while also speaking directly to the present’ – Qantara


Colum McCann. Apeirogon: A Novel (Random House, 2020)

Publisher’s description: Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colours every aspect of their lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on to the schools their children attend to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate. But their lives, however circumscribed, are upended one after the other: first, Rami’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Smadar, becomes the victim of suicide bombers; a decade later, Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, is killed by a rubber bullet. Rami and Bassam had been raised to hate one another. And yet, when they learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them. Together they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace – and with their one small act, start to permeate what has for generations seemed an impermeable conflict. This extraordinary novel is the fruit of a seed planted when the novelist Colum McCann met the real Bassam and Rami on a trip with the non-profit organization Narrative 4. McCann was moved by their willingness to share their stories with the world, by their hope that if they could see themselves in one another, perhaps others could too. With their blessing, and unprecedented access to their families, lives, and personal recollections, McCann began to craft Apeirogon, which uses their real-life stories to begin another – one that crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. The result is an ambitious novel, crafted out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material, with these fathers’ moving story at its heart.


‘The novel poignantly explores the impact of love, loss, war, hatred, reconciliation and forgiveness (…) Apeirogon is a geometric symbol or shape which has an infinite number of sides and as this is exactly what McCann’s epic novel possesses, it is limitless. There is no one side to a story and everything has meaning, every angle is to be explored – which in turn gives rise to further exploration’ – RTE


Gil Pasternak (ed.). Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict (Bloomsbury, 2020)

Publisher’s description: Visioning Israel-Palestine strives to cultivate recognition of the part that cultural products have played in the duplication of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this conflict is one of the longest-lasting struggles over land and human rights in recent history, politicians and the media have largely reduced it to a series of debates over historical facts and expressions of violence. Its persistence, however, has also led to the manufacture of cultural products that challenge understandings of the conflict as a fight between two distinct peoples unified against each other. The wide range of international contributors to the volume analyse the content of such products alongside the work that they do within Israel-Palestine and in the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas. Considering Israeli and Palestinian films, art installations, street exhibitions, photographs and oral histories, Visioning Israel-Palestine expands the conflict’s historical imagination and nurtures suitable cultural conditions to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


‘The refreshing premise of this volume is the recognition that there exists an interculturality within Israeli and Palestinian works of art based on the conflict they share. Pasternak asks “how might we go about unpacking the cultural products of the conflict without assuming that each speaks for one nation or against another?” The volume’s authors answer this call in nine essays on particular works of art, exhibitions and public displays, as well as visual and oral “memories of the conflict” that range from amateur photographs taken by Israeli tourists in the West Bank after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War to cross-generational Palestinian oral narratives of the 1948 Nakba. Collectively, these accounts challenge the notion that Israeli and Palestinian cultural production are irreconcilable entities’ – Burlington Contemporary


Anandi Ramamurthy and Paul Kelemen. Struggling to Be Seen: The Travails of Palestinian Cinema (Daraja Press, 2020)

Publisher’s description: The book explores the challenges Palestinian filmmakers confront to develop a cinema that gives expression to the national narrative. It is based on collaborative research involving Film Lab Palestine, Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange and Sheffield Hallam University. We explore the political, economic and cultural contexts that impact on Palestinian film production and some of the barriers encountered in profiling and screening Palestinian films, to shed light on the complex terrain that is traversed to sustain and develop a film industry and film culture in historic Palestine and beyond.


‘In this slim and affordable book, Anandi Ramamurthy and Paul Kelemen write with authority from their respective engagements as professors, curators, and activists. Struggling to Be Seen: The Travails of Palestinian Cinema educates newcomers to the Palestinian struggle, but it can also be appreciated by the Palestine-solidarity base for its concise overview of the challenges, past and present, characterizing Palestinian cinema. As such, it delivers the objectives of its publisher, Daraja Press, in creating cultures of solidarity and supporting emancipatory struggles of oppressed people across the world’ – Journal of Palestine Studies


Adania Shibli. Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2020)

Publisher’s description: Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba – the catastrophe that led to the displacement and expulsion of more than 700,000 people – and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers capture and rape a young Palestinian woman, and kill and bury her in the sand. Many years later, a woman in Ramallah becomes fascinated to the point of obsession with this ‘minor detail’ of history. A haunting meditation on war, violence and memory, Minor Detail cuts to the heart of the Palestinian experience of dispossession, life under occupation, and the persistent difficulty of piecing together a narrative in the face of ongoing erasure and disempowerment.


‘In Adania Shibli’s third novel, a young Arab woman is raped and murdered by Israeli troops in 1949. The difficulty of portraying the atrocity lies at the heart of a highly sophisticated narrative that pitilessly explores the limits of empathy and the desire to right (or write) historical wrongs by giving voice to the voiceless’ – Guardian


Gabriel Varghese. Palestinian Theatre in the West Bank: Our Human Faces (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

Publisher’s description: Since the 1990s, Palestinian theatrical activities in the West Bank have expanded exponentially. As well as local productions, Palestinian theatre-makers have presented their work to international audiences on a scale unprecedented in Palestinian history. This book explores the histories of the five major theatre companies currently working in the West Bank: Al-Kasaba Theatre, Ashtar Theatre, Al-Harah Theatre, The Freedom Theatre and Al-Rowwad. Taking the first intifada (1987-93) as his point of departure, and drawing on original fieldwork and interviews with Palestinian practitioners, Gabriel Varghese introduces the term ‘abject counterpublics’ to explore how theatre-makers contest Zionist discourse and Israeli state practices. By foregrounding Palestinian voices, and placing theories of abjection and counterpublic formation in conversation with each other, Varghese argues that theatre in the West Bank has been regulated by processes of colonial abjection and, yet, it is an important site for resisting Zionism’s discourse of erasure and Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid. Palestinian Theatre in the West Bank: Our Human Faces is the first major account of Palestinian theatre covering the last three decades.


Palestinian Theatre in the West Bank is a concise rundown of the impact settler colonialism has had on Palestinian theatre-makers. Broadly, this book focuses on how decolonial theatre and Palestinian arts movements intersect with race, gender, and class. Some strengths include its vivid descriptions of projects and the wide net cast on lived experiences represented on stage. While one text can only cover so much, I remain curious about how the plays were translated and how methodological choices affected the author’s research. While more work can be done to disentangle the nuances behind Zionist self-determination, to tease out the differences between the Black experience and the Palestinian experience and to understand the future implications of activist theatrical movements in the West Bank, this is also work for readers – and not Varghese alone – to take up. Varghese’s text is of use to cultural scholars and performance practitioners seeking to understand the West Bank climate through the work of its theatre-makers. As a performance studies educator, I can easily see using portions of this text in my cultural performance courses’ – Journal of the Cultural Studies Association


Atef Alshaer (ed.). A Map of Absence: An Anthology of Palestinian Writing on the Nakba (Saqi Books, 2019)

Publisher’s description: A Map of Absence presents the finest poetry and prose by Palestinian writers over the last seventy years. Featuring writers in the diaspora and those living under occupation, these striking entries pay testament to one of the most pivotal events in modern history – the 1948 Nakba. This unique, landmark anthology includes translated excerpts of works by major authors such as Mahmoud Darwish, Ghassan Kanafani and Fadwa Tuqan alongside those of emerging writers, published here in English for the first time. Depicting the varied aspects of Palestinian life both before and after 1948, their writings highlight the ongoing resonances of the Nakba. An intimate companion for all lovers of world literature, A Map of Absence reveals the depth and breadth of Palestinian writing.


‘Atef Alshaer has expertly curated an essential anthology of Palestinian writing. A Map of Absence fills a gap not only in the record of Palestinian expressive culture, but in the world’s literature of political resistance and political trauma. Alshaer in fact perceives the Nakba as an organizing moment in the history of both Palestinian political consciousness and Palestinian writing. Both of these elements are superbly rendered in collaboration between editor and contributors’ – Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies


Ahlam Bsharat. Trees for the Absentees (Neem Tree Press, 2019)

Publisher’s description: Young love, meddling relatives, heart-to-hearts with friends real and imagined – Philistia’s world is that of an ordinary university student, except that in occupied Palestine, and when your father is in indefinite detention, nothing is straightforward. Philistia is closest to her childhood, and to her late grandmother and her imprisoned father, when she’s at her part-time job washing women’s bodies at the ancient Ottoman hammam in Nablus, the West Bank. A midwife and corpse washer in her time, Grandma Zahia taught Philistia the ritual ablutions and the secrets of the body: the secrets of life and death. On the brink of adulthood, Philistia embarks on a journey through her country’s history – a magical journey, and one of loss and centuries of occupation. As trees are uprooted around her, Philistia searches for a place of refuge, a place where she can plant a memory for the ones she’s lost.


Trees for the Absentees is the coming-of-age story of Philistia, who splits her time between studies at Al-Quds Open University and her part-time job at a hammam in Nablus. Philistia was particularly close to her Grandmother Zahia, who served as both the midwife and the corpse washer for their village of Deir Sabra (…) Author Ahlam Bsharat uses magical realism to illustrate how Philistia moves between the porous borders of the worlds of the living and the dead, the past and the present, and the real and the imagined as she navigates what it means to grow up in an occupied state. This blending of what is real and what is not can be somewhat challenging to parse during reading-I will admit to some confusion on my part. This novella may be under 90 pages long, but it does require that the reader take their time with Philistia’s story. Nevertheless, the translation by Sue Copeland and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is accessible, with touches of the original Arabic that help really ground the story in its West Bank setting. The reader, though, has to be willing to enter Philistia’s world and to let go of the desire for neatly resolved narratives’ – Global Literatures in Libraries Initiative


Marcello di Cintio. Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Life in Contemporary Palestine (Counterpoint, 2019)


Publisher’s description: Taking the long route through the West Bank, into Jerusalem, across Israel, and finally into Gaza, Marcello Di Cintio meets with Palestinian poets, authors, librarians, and booksellers to learn about Palestine through their eyes. Pay No Heed to the Rockets offers a look at life in contemporary Palestine through the lens of its literary culture, one that begins with art rather than with war.


‘This idea, that the daily horrors of life under siege could be little more than an afterthought, especially to those who experience them most intimately, should be the least surprising takeaway of Di Cintio’s meandering, yet deeply satisfying survey of the Palestinian literary scene. But by ceding so much of the narrative to the authors he meets, he ends up revealing something discomforting about us, their English-speaking audience: our notions of life in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel may have little to do with how Palestinians experience themselves (…) [Though Di Cintio’s subjects] hail from very different geographies and, in some cases, write in different languages, what all of these authors have in common is a fierce commitment to authenticity, even if their stories disrupt long-held notions of what a Palestinian is supposed to think and feel’ – +972 Magazine


Basma Ghalayini (ed.). Palestine +100: Stories from a Century After the Nakba (Comma Press, 2019)

Publisher’s description: 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.


‘The dozen writers of these stories have done an incredible job of capturing the fears, hopes and dreams of their fellow Palestinians, reimagining them through incredible tales of fantastical technology and parallel universes’ – Ceasefire Magazine


Elias Khoury. Children of the Ghetto: My Name Is Adam (Archipelago Books, 2019)

Publisher’s description: Long exiled in New York, Palestinian ex-pat Adam Dannoun thought he knew himself. But an encounter with Blind Mahmoud, a father figure from his childhood, changes everything. As he investigates exactly what occurred in 1948 in Lydda, the city of his birth, he gathers stories that speak to his people’s bravery, ingenuity, and resolve in the face of unimaginable hardship.


‘It’s very hard to review something so close to perfection. About all one can do after such an engrossing read is describe, quote, compare and reflect. Elias Khoury’s remarkable literary skill and the brilliant Hebrew translation of Yehouda Shenhav-Sharabani (a work of art in itself) make Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam one of the most poignant and important novels of recent years. After it, no words are needed, if only because it is one of the most eloquent works ever written about silence. “Silence is the story of my life”, writes Khoury. Silence is his tool of expression, as blindness is José Saramago’s means of observation (…) His basic stance is very humanistic: The other is also me, I am someone else’s other. And therefore I – the narrator and chronicler – am constantly committed to sensitivity, honesty and emotional precision. He does not present just ordinary people who suffer and love. And all comes swathed in epic writing that reaches back into the depths of Arabic literature and stretches to the present’ – Ha’aretz


Nayrouz Qarmout. The Sea Cloak & Other Stories (Comma Press, 2019)

Publisher’s description: The Sea Cloak is a collection of 11 stories by the author, journalist, and women’s rights campaigner, Nayrouz Qarmout. Drawing from her own experiences growing up in a Syrian refugee camp, as well as her current life in Gaza, these stories stitch together a patchwork of different perspectives into what it means to be a woman in Palestine today. Whether following the daily struggles of orphaned children fighting to survive in the rubble of recent bombardments, or mapping the complex, cultural tensions between different generations of refugees in wider Gazan society, these stories offer rare insights into one of the most talked about, but least understood cities in the Middle East. Taken together, the collection affords us a local perspective on a global story, and it does so thanks to a cast of (predominantly female) characters whose vantage point is rooted, firmly, in that most cherished of things, the home. 


‘In her debut short story collection, the Palestinian writer and women’s rights campaigner Nayrouz Qarmout gives a brutal rendering of daily life in Gaza. It’s a picture of innocence corrupted: children playing “Jews and Arabs”, a girl distracted from homework by the buzzing of “a big mosquito that launches rockets from the sky”. Explosive, resonant images are conjured in Qarmout’s confident, arresting voice. Tradition and religion are shown to be just as damaging as military violence’ – Guardian


Nathan Englander. Dinner at the Centre of the Earth (Orion, 2018)

Publisher’s description: From the best-selling author of Pulitzer finalist What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne FrankDinner at the Centre of the Earth is a spellbinding thriller, a spy novel and a love story, showcasing Englander’s gifts as never before. Prisoner Z, held at a black site in the Negev desert for a dozen years has only his guard for company. How does a nice American Jewish boy from Long Island wind up an Israeli spy working for Mossad, and later, a traitor to his adopted country? What does it mean to be loyal, what does it mean to be a traitor, when the ideals you cherish are betrayed by the country you love? From Israel and Gaza to Paris, Italy, and America, the story shifts back in time, providing a kaleidoscopic glimpse of Prisoner Z’s improbable journey to his desert cell. Englander’s irresistible hero brings wit and heartbreak to his predicament and the plight of a damaged and riven nation. Taut, provocative, and impossible to put down, a novel of full of shifting surfaces, where nothing and no one is what it seems, Dinner at the Centre of the Earth is the most electrifying work of Nathan Englander’s extraordinary career.


‘Where this book so resonantly succeeds is as a meditation on the many traumas of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – slap bang, as Nathan Englander reminds us, in the geographical centre of the standard map of the Earth (…) There were passages of great humanity and wisdom. I was fully engaged and it made me think, and rethink, and later sent me off to educate myself on the history. Most of all I love that fiction such as this can make you experience so intensely those great subjects with which your real-life familiarity is so very slight’ – Guardian

‘A dark, profound meditation on the state of Israel and also a gripping thriller, full of twists and moral ambiguity, it is an absolute joy to read’ – Jewish Chronicle


Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Sadness Is a White Bird: A Novel (Atria Books, 2018)

Publisher’s description: The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where – four days after his nineteenth birthday – Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell and recalls the series of events that led him there. Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith – the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend. From that morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage, while also feeling love for those outside of your own family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever. ‘Unflinching in its honesty, unyielding in its moral complexity’ (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author), Sadness Is a White Bird explores one man’s attempts to find a place for himself, discovering in the process a beautiful, against-the-odds love that flickers like a candle in the darkness of a never-ending conflict.


‘Rarely does one come across a debut nov­el as artis­ti­cal­ly accom­plished, polit­i­cal­ly unset­tling, and emo­tion­al­ly unflinch­ing as Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s Sad­ness Is a White Bird. A rich­ly empath­ic sto­ry of Israel and Pales­tine, his­to­ry and mem­o­ry, explored through the inti­mate bonds between young Jew­ish and Mus­lim Israelis, it offers all that one could wish for in a com­ing-of-age sto­ry. By turns humor­ous, joy­ful, melan­choly, erot­ic, and trag­ic, the author’s lumi­nous prose con­sis­tent­ly deliv­ers the cru­cial ele­ment of con­vinc­ing detail’ – Jewish Book Council


Nadia Yaqub. Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution (University of Texas Press, 2018)

Publisher’s description: Palestinian cinema arose during the political cinema movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, yet it was unique as an institutionalized, though modest, film effort within the national liberation campaign of a stateless people. Filmmakers working within the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and through other channels filmed the revolution as it unfolded, including the Israeli bombings of Palestinian refugee camps, the Jordanian and Lebanese civil wars, and Palestinian life under Israeli occupation, attempting to create a cinematic language consonant with the revolution and its needs. They experimented with form both to make effective use of limited material and to process violent events and loss as a means of sustaining active engagement in the Palestinian political project. Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution presents an in-depth study of films made between 1968 and 1982, the filmmakers and their practices, the political and cultural contexts in which the films were created and seen, and their afterlives among Palestinian refugees and young filmmakers in the twenty-first century. Nadia Yaqub discusses how early Palestinian cinema operated within emerging public-sector cinema industries in the Arab world, as well as through coproductions and solidarity networks. Her findings aid in understanding the development of alternative cinema in the Arab world. Yaqub also demonstrates that Palestinian filmmaking, as a cinema movement created and sustained under conditions of extraordinary precarity, offers important lessons on the nature and possibilities of political filmmaking more generally.


‘A passionate, poetic coming-of-age story set in a mine field, brilliantly capturing the intensity of feeling on both sides of the conflict’ – Kirkus Reviews


Tamim Al-Barghouti. In Jerusalem and Other Poems (Interlink Books, 2017)

Publisher’s description: Al-Barghouti is probably one of the most widely read Palestinian poets of his generation. His poetry readings are attended by thousands, sometimes packing stadiums and amphitheatres. The reception of his poetry among a diverse audience from various backgrounds and age groups is a testimony to the vitality of the centuries-old tradition of classical Arabic poetry. (…) In 2007, Al-Barghouti’s long poem ‘In Jerusalem’, which describes an aborted journey to the city, became something of a street poem. (…) On January 26, 2011, one day after the Egyptian Revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, Al-Barghouti wrote the lyrical poem ‘Hanet’; its Arabic title roughly translates as ‘It’s Close’. With the internet down, he faxed the poem to a Cairo newspaper, copies of which were distributed in Tahrir Square. Soon after, Al-Jazeera TV Channel broadcast a recording of it and a video of his reading was projected in the Square every couple of hours on makeshift screens.


‘Tamim Al-Barghouti is, in my estimation, the greatest Arabic poet writing today. He was also, until this book, undoubtedly the greatest contemporary Arab poet to not yet be translated (…) While I do recommend the book for those who cannot access any of Barghouti’s work in the original, it is unfortunate that the book ultimately proves witness that a great poet does not always a good poetry translator make’ – Bosphorus Review of Books


Naomi Foyle (ed.). A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry (Smokestack Books, 2017)

Publisher’s description: ‘Against barbarity’, wrote the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), ‘poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human fragility, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by’. A Blade of Grass brings together, in English and in Arabic, new work by poets from the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, from the Palestinian diaspora and from within the disputed borders of Israel. Featuring work by Fady Joudah, Mahmoud Darwish, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Deema K. Shehabi, Ashraf Fayadh, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marwan Makhoul, Farid Bitar, Fatena Al Ghorra, Dareen Tatour and Sara Saleh, it celebrates the flourishing cultural resistance of the Palestinian people to decades of displacement, occupation, exile and bombardment. Voices fresh and seasoned converse with history, sing to the land, and courageously nurture an attachment to human fragility. Written in free verse and innovative forms, hip-hop rhythms and the Arabic lyric tradition, these poems bear witness both to catastrophe and to the powerful determination to survive it.


‘This anthology is not only patently worth its cover price for the poetry it collects and in many cases lovingly translates, but also for the deeply researched introduction by Naomi Foyle’ – London Grip


Yitzhak Laor. The Myths of Liberal Zionism (Verso, 2017)

Publisher’s description: Laor is one of Israel’s most prominent dissidents and poets, a latter-day Spinoza who helps keep alive the critical tradition within Jewish culture. In this work he fearlessly dissects the complex attitudes of Western European liberal Left intellectuals toward Israel, Zionism and the ‘Israeli peace camp’. He argues that through a prism of famous writers like Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, the peace camp has now adopted the European vision of ‘new Zionism’, promoting the fierce Israeli desire to be accepted as part of the West and taking advantage of growing Islamophobia across Europe. The backdrop to this uneasy relationship is the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust. Laor is merciless as he strips bare the hypocrisies and unarticulated fantasies that lie beneath the love-affair between ‘liberal Zionists’ and their European supporters.


‘For the Israeli Zionist, Laor has many damning words. Maybe this is an attempt to heal the culture. For American Zionist Jews, who need this book so badly, who will react to its publication like a blind man to Medusa? ‘I can hardly find appropriate words for them’, for those who pay for the weapons that kill children, for those who will never live in their insurance-policy patch of land in the Levant. I can find appropriate words for Laor’s book: it is a gift, incredible and beautiful, so wonderful that I am sure that the American Zionist community will spurn it. No one wants to read the words that will be the epitaph on the gravestone marking the burial site of your communal imaginary’ – Electronic Intifada 


Maha Nassar. Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World (Stanford University Press, 2017)

Publisher’s description: When the state of Israel was established in 1948, not all Palestinians became refugees: some stayed behind and were soon granted citizenship. Those who remained, however, were relegated to second-class status in this new country, controlled by a military regime that restricted their movement and political expression. For two decades, Palestinian citizens of Israel were cut off from friends and relatives on the other side of the Green Line, as well as from the broader Arab world. Yet they were not passive in the face of this profound isolation. Palestinian intellectuals, party organizers, and cultural producers in Israel turned to the written word. Through writers like Mahmoud Darwish and Samih al-Qasim, poetry, journalism, fiction, and nonfiction became sites of resistance and connection alike. With this book, Nassar examines their well-known poetry and uncovers prose works that have, until now, been largely overlooked. The writings of Palestinians in Israel played a key role in fostering a shared national consciousness and would become a central means of alerting Arabs in the region to the conditions – and to the defiance – of these isolated Palestinians.


‘Maha Nasser’s Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World could be better framed as a book about the ways that poetry and the writers of poems and other cultural texts migrated across political boundaries and physical borders in the postwar era of decolonization, when communism and pan-Arab nationalism duelled for the hearts and minds of Palestinians in Israel (…) The book is an important addition to historians’ understanding as to the migration of ideas and intellectuals in Palestine and Israel in the mid-twentieth century. To be sure, it is not directly about migration in terms of the movement of persons and communities across borders in order to make new homes, take on employment, join family, or escape any variety of political, economic, social, or religious difficulties. Nasser instead highlights what types of migration take place when people – in this case, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel – cannot physically migrate across borders without forfeiting their residence’ – H-Net Network


Dorit Rabinyan. All the Rivers: A Novel (Serpent’s Tail, 2017)

Publisher’s description: A chance encounter in New York brings two strangers together: Liat is an idealistic translation student, Hilmi a talented young painter. Together they explore the city, share fantasies, jokes and homemade meals, and fall in love. There is only one problem: Liat is from Israel, Hilmi from Palestine. Keeping their deepening relationship secret, the two lovers build an intimate universe for two in this city far from home. But outside reality can only be kept at bay for so long. After a tempestuous visit from Hilmi’s brother, cracks begin to form in the relationship, and their points of difference – Liat’s military service, Hilmi’s hopes for Palestine’s future – threaten to overwhelm their shared present. When they return separately to their divided countries, Liat and Hilmi must decide whether to keep going, or let go. A prizewinning bestseller, but banned in Israeli schools for its frank and tender depiction of a taboo relationship, this is the deeply affecting story of two people trying to bridge one of the most deeply riven borders in the world.


‘A deserved but unexpected success for Rabinyan (…) With masterful skill, the author has set her unusual love story in the midst of a major political conflict, while doing justice to both the emotional level and the tough reality. A pleasure to read, with the “stigma of love” echoing in the reader′s mind long after putting the book down’ – Qantara


Mohammed Sabaaneh. White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine (Just World Books, 2017)

Publisher’s description: Sabaaneh, a talented political cartoonist from Palestine, has gained worldwide renown for his stark black-and-white sketches, which draw attention to brutalities of the Israeli occupation and celebrate the Palestinians’ popular resistance. These provocative drawings do not flinch from tackling the tough subjects that confront Palestinians, from Israel’s everyday injustices in the West Bank to their frequent military operations on Gaza. This collection includes 180 of Sabaaneh’s best cartoons, some of them depicting the experience of Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israel.


‘a rare opportunity for English-language readers to become familiar with Sabaaneh’s stark black and white images, printed in newspapers across the Arab world (…) Sabaaneh’s cartoons are a bold and searing look at the lives of Palestinians and the collective burden they bear and violence they suffer from Israel’s occupation. They have also gotten the artist into a heap of trouble – and that alone is reason to pay attention’ – Electronic Intifada 


Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton (eds.). This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature (Bloomsbury, 2017)

Publisher’s description: The Palestine Festival of Literature was established in 2008. Bringing together writers from all corners of the globe, it aims to help Palestinians break the cultural siege imposed by the Israeli military occupation, to strengthen their artistic links with the rest of the world, and to reaffirm, in the words of Edward Said, ‘the power of culture over the culture of power’. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of PalFest, This Is Not a Border is a collection of essays, poems and stories from some of the world’s most distinguished artists, responding to their experiences at this unique festival. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, their gathered work is a testament to the power of literature to promote solidarity and courage in the most desperate of situations.


‘Writers can write. They are couriers, bridging the gap between ignorance and knowledge. But there remains the unsettling idea that foreigners writing about Palestine will get more traction than a Palestinian on the same topic. Their access to the territories that most Palestinians are expelled or banned from is understood to be a privilege; but what purpose does it serve to focus on that privilege? It would surely be more useful to leverage it into taking the conversation forward, rather than to manufacture stereotypes from it’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘A chorus of lyrical voices singing hopefully about a most contentious, divisive, and violent situation’ – Kirkus Reviews 


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. Water & Salt (Red Hen Press, 2017)

Publisher’s description: The poems in Water & Salt travel across borders between cultures and languages, between the present and the living past. These poems alternately rage, laugh, celebrate and grieve, singing in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage and inviting the reader to see the human lives lived beyond the headlines.


‘one of the most gorgeous renderings of the Levant I’ve ever read. Tuffaha, an Arab-American poet of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage, writes from a place of familial memory and nostalgia, a place of longing and loss, of displacement and deciphering home’ – So to Speak Journal 


Samia Halaby. Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre (Schilt Publishing, 2016)

Publisher’s description: The 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre was carried out by the Israeli Border Police under cover of the tripartite attack on Egypt by England, France, and Israel. (…) In Kafr Qasem, an artifice was created to provide a fig-leaf excuse for the killing of innocent people — a curfew announced less than a half an hour before it was implemented. Workers returning home, tired and hungry, unaware of the curfew, were cold-bloodedly shot dead by members of the Israeli Border Police. Based on interviews with survivors, Samia Halaby created a set of documentary drawings on the subject. The emotions of anger and fear leap from every page of this book, enabling the reader to bear witness to the terrible suffering endured by the inhabitants of this small Palestinian village.


‘An important contribution to the preservation of Palestinian memory, Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre confronts Israel’s efforts to consign it to oblivion through the dimensions of textual narrative and art. Palestinian artist Samia Halaby describes her work in this book as “documentary drawing”; she has produced a work of immense importance which highlights the psychological repercussions experienced by Palestinians through her sketches and drawings depicting innocent victims of Israel’s murderous brutality’ – Middle East Monitor 


Vered Maimon (ed.). Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel (Pluto Press, 2016)

Publisher’s description: In 2005, a group of photographers took a stand alongside the people of the small town of Bil’in, and documented their fight to stop the Israeli government building the infamous West Bank Barrier. Inspired by what they had seen in Bil’in, the group went on to form Activestills, a collective whose work has become vital in documenting the struggle against Israeli occupation and everyday life in extraordinary situations. Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel examines the collective’s archive and activity from historical, theoretical, critical, and personal perspectives. It is the result of an in-depth dialogue among members of the collective and activists, journalists, intellectuals, and academics, and stands as the definitive study of the collective’s work. Combining striking full-colour photographs with essays and commentary, Activestills stands as both a major contribution to reportage on Israel/Palestine and a unique collection of visual art.


‘Activestills’s work opens onto a challenge to question what one’s role as a maker of images, as a writer of images, as a viewer of images, might be, as well as the ethical responsibilities attached to this making, writing, and viewing, as the collective raises the stakes for what a visual politics of solidarity might look like’ – Brooklyn Rail

‘The book, edited by Vered Maimon, a senior lecturer in the Art History Department at Tel Aviv University, and Activestills curator and photo editor Shiraz Grinbaum, is an ode to the past decade of grassroots activism in Israel-Palestine. It is what B’Tselem’s Sarit Michaeli calls, “a radical family photo album of sorts, blending memorable moments from our collective political and personal lives,” which represents the “very essence of our community… in this troubled place”’ – +972 Magazine


Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf. Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction (Repeater Books, 2016)

Publisher’s description: Adaf and Tidhar are two of Israel’s most subversive and politically outspoken writers. Growing up on opposite sides of the Israeli spectrum – Tidhar in the north of Israel in the Zionist, socialist Kibbutz; Adaf from a family of religious Mizrahi Jews living in Sderot – the two nevertheless shared a love of books, and were especially drawn to the strange visions and outrageous sensibilities of the science fiction that was available in Hebrew. Here, they engage in a dialogue that covers their approach to writing the fantastic, as they question how to write about Israel and Palestine, about Judaism, about the Holocaust, about childhoods and their end. Extending the conversation even into their fiction, the book contains two brand new short stories – ‘Tutim’ by Tidhar, and ‘third attribute’ by Adaf – in which each appears as a character in the other’s tale; simultaneously political and fantastical, they burn with an angry, despairing intensity.


‘Have you ever eavesdropped on the conversations of the brilliant people at the table next to you, and wanted to jump in and interrupt, to ask your own questions? Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction, a new book of conversations between two writers, is sure to make readers feel that way’ – +972 Magazine


Vacy Viazna (ed.). I Remember My Name (novum publishing, 2016)

Publisher’s description: I Remember My Name is a moving collection of poems by three Palestinian poets whose poetic vision is at once Palestinian and universal. It is a tribute to Arabic literature and to the striving for a common justice and humaneness. It is dedicated to those who resisted, who suffered, and who live the Palestinian sumoud – steadfastness. All three poets enjoy high literary profiles in the West and the Middle East: Samah, is an author, playwright, poet and political commentator, Ramzy is an author, poet, editor, political commentator and Jehan is a poet and political commentator. All three are highly respected and renowned Palestinian activists.


‘Conditions on the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem and in myriad Palestinian refugee camps are monstrous. What non-violent response can there be to the violence and hatred, the killings and the dispossession, the endlessly cruel siege of Gaza, the thuggery of settlers and the Netanyahu rants? As if taking their cue from the English poet Shelley who said that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world, three Palestinian poets have crafted an inspiring and empowering response. In the anthology, I Remember My Name, Samah Sabawi, Ramzy Baroud and Jehan Bseiso give the antidote to violence and stimulants to combat despair’ – Palestine Chronicle 


Jemma Wayne. Chains of Sand (Legend Press, 2016)

Publisher’s description: At 26, Udi is a veteran of the Israeli army and has killed five men. He wants a new life in a new place. He has a cousin in England. Daniel is 29, a Londoner, an investment banker and a Jew. He wants for nothing, yet he too is unable to escape an intangible yearning for something more. And for less. He looks to Israel for the answer. But as the war with Hamas breaks out, Daniel cannot know that the star-crossed love of a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier, will soon complicate all that he thinks has become clear.


‘This is a book that offers both perception and understanding, an achievement that matters all the more because Jemma Wayne’s subject is one that is often misunderstood and misrepresented: the state of Israel. Her narrative follows two young men and various associates as they try to work out their place in the country, and their own equally confused feelings about this complicated society (…) Politics gradually comes to dominate the narrative, upsetting the delicate balance of the early chapters and making the tone ever more strident and overwrought. Chains Of Sand still provides useful lessons, and still carries emotional weight. It passes the empathy test – but its success is qualified’ – Guardian

Chains of Sand is a brave book, one that reveals the complexities of being Jewish and of being Israeli, of identifying with Israel as a nation, as a concept, as a home for the Jewish people, complexities hampered by a modern zeitgeist that is wont to be blindly anti-Israel. Chains of Sand challenges a viewpoint unable to see a polyglot cosmopolitan nation struggling to grow and understand itself, whilst fully cognizant that this same nation is blinkered by the politics of aggression towards its neighbours, a nation apt to stumble into overreaction through fear of losing itself. It does the reader no harm to explore perspectives born of the lived experience of those we may apparently oppose. For that alone, I salute the author’ – Shiny New Books


Ghassan Zaqtan. Describing the Past (Seagull Books, 2016)

Publisher’s description: When he was seven years old, Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan moved with his family to a Karameh refugee camp east of the River Jordan. That camp – a center of Palestinian resistance following the Six-Day War and the site of major devastation when Israel razed the camp following the Battle of Karameh in 1968 – is the setting for Zaqtan’s first prose work to appear in English. This novella is a coming of age story, a tale of youth set amid the death and chaos of war and violence. It is an elegy for the loss of a childhood friend, and for childhood itself, brought back to life here as if dreams and memories have merged into a new state of being, an altered consciousness and way of being in and remembering the world.


‘In its elegiac, shadowy view of the past, though, the novella echoes the battle [of Karameh]’s importance in the history, memory and myth-making of Palestinian identity, while bittersweet images of childhood draw on the loss and heartache caused by Israeli shelling and attacks (…) The overall experience of reading this novella is one of a taut, perfect object, beautifully crafted (and translated by Samuel Wilder). Little is clear and there are few answers, but the ultimate impression is one of controlled gorgeousness’ – Electronic Intifada 


Susan Abulhawa. The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Publisher’s description: Violently pushed from their ancient farming village of Beit Daras, a Palestinian family tries to reconstitute itself in a refugee camp in Gaza. The men here, those who have escaped prison or the battlefields, worry over making ends meet, tend their tattered pride, join the resistance. The women are left to be breadwinners and protectors, too. Nazmiyeh is the matriarch, the centre of a household of sisters, daughters, granddaughters, whose lives threaten to spin out of control with every personal crisis, military attack, or political landmine. Her brother’s granddaughter Nur is stuck in America; her own daughter’s son, traumatized in an Israeli assault, slips into another kind of exile; her daughter has cancer and no access to medicine. (…) All Nazmiyeh’s loved ones will return to her, and ultimately journey further, to that place between the sky and water where all is as it once was, and where all will meet again.


‘Susan Abulhawa’s gripping and deeply moving novel tells the story of Palestine after “history arrived”. In 1948, the formation of the State of Israel and the subsequent wars wrenched this ancient land apart, sending some Palestinians fleeing for the illusory safety of crowded refugee camps in Gaza and scattering many others into exile. This is a story that has played across our television screens for years. Most recently in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last year, which killed hundreds of civilians, maimed scores and reduced much of the area to rubble. Suffering and resilience are difficult things to witness, but this powerful, politically engaged novel does so with a transformative literary grace’ – Independent

‘This is not only a story about displacement. It takes in love, hatred, sex, rape, survival, death, loss and belonging. It is full of celebratory dances, partying on the beach, mourning, fear, mysteries, dirty jokes and national heroism’ – Guardian


Susan Muaddi Darraj. A Curious Land: Stories from Home (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015)

Publisher’s description: Susan Muaddi Darraj’s short story collection about the inhabitants of a Palestinian West Bank village, Tel al-Hilou, spans generations and continents to explore ideas of memory, belonging, connection, and, ultimately, the deepest and richest meaning of home. A Curious Land gives voice to the experiences of Palestinians in the last century.


‘Susan Muaddi Darraj’s short story collection A Curious Land takes readers on a journey through the Israeli-Palestine conflict. As in her previous collection The Inheritance of Exile, Darraj tells dynastic stories. But while her first collection followed generations of Palestinian and Palestinian-American women who settled in South Philadelphia, A Curious Land tells the story of the Palestinians who either stay or return (…) Darraj’s writing is neither overly moralistic nor didactic. There is a no judgment or anger in the stories. She shows us one side of a decades-long conflict, with characters struggling for the peace and happiness we all want for ourselves’ – Necessary Fiction


Mads Gilbert. Night in Gaza (Skyscraper Publications, 2015)

Publisher’s description: In the summer of 2014, Gaza was attacked by Israel for the fourth time since 2006. This attack lasted fifty-one days. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor, had worked at al-Shifa Hospital during each previous conflict, and in July 2014 he went back there. While he was helping the wounded, he kept a camera in the pocket of his green operating scrubs. In this book, he tells the story in words and images of the fifteen days of bombing and human suffering that he witnessed. At the same time, this book is a tribute to the courage, endurance and almost inconceivably strong spirit of Palestinian health workers and volunteers, a spirit replicated throughout the severely tested society of Gaza, occupied Palestine.


‘The book is an exhibition space for powerful human photographs, some of them deeply harrowing images of wounds of every conceivable type but others showing Palestinian strength, dignity and defiance in the face of such carnage. Taken by the author or with his camera, they are considerably more telling than any prose and are the stand out part of the work. Where the text is most powerful and memorable is when Gilbert gives voice to individual Palestinians. To his credit he never forgets that the story is about them not him’ – Middle East Eye


Hatim Kanaaneh. Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee (Just World Books, 2015)

Publisher’s description: In Chief Complaint, Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, explores the changing, precarious, and ever-shrinking world of Palestinians living in Israel. As his village’s first Western-trained physician, Kanaaneh has had intimate access to his neighbour’s lives, which he chronicles here in a fictionalized collection of vignettes. These compelling short stories reveal the struggles, triumphs, memories, and hopes of the indigenous Palestinian community living in a state that does not acknowledge their past or encourage their future. Each story is titled with the ‘chief complaint’ of its protagonist, the principal reason that the patient sought medical attention at Kanaaneh’s clinic. Using the classic tool of the medical profession known as the “review of systems” as a literary device, Kanaaneh deftly draws the reader in to a fascinating cast of characters, narrating their troubles and pain as well as the joys that punctuate life for the Palestinians of Galilee. Ultimately, this collection poignantly conveys their community’s foundational chief complaint, its conflicted relationship with the state of Israel. 


‘While the chapters have titles such as Hair Loss, Chest Pain and Nausea, they divulge much more than the medical ailments of a village. Through the fictional stories of characters treated by Dr. Kanaaneh (although fictional they are concocted out of multiple, real patients of his), the author invites us to share in their memories, struggles and hopes, and, with them, paints a rich portrait of village life and its social customs. Truths about the Palestine- Israel conflict are peppered throughout these tales and we learn much about less touched upon aspects of its history’ – Palestine Book Awards


khulud khamis. Haifa Fragments (Spinfex Press, 2015)

Publisher’s description: Jewellery designer Maisoon wants an ordinary extraordinary life, which isn’t easy for a tradition-defying, activist, Palestinian citizen of Israel who refuses to be crushed by the feeling of being an unwelcome guest in the land of her ancestors. Frustrated by the apathy of her boyfriend Ziyad and her father Majid—who want her to get on with her life and forget those in the Occupied Territories—she lashes out, only to discover her father isn’t the man she thought he was. Raised a Christian, in a relationship with a Muslim man and enamoured with a Palestinian woman from the Occupied Territories, Maisoon must determine her own path.


‘With her debut novel Haifa Fragments, Palestinian Slovakian writer khulud khamis pens a compulsive narrative that examines the complex of nationality, gender, sexuality, religion and culture in Palestine (…) Despite the rather clumsy introduction of homosexuality within the novel, this is an engaging read that goes far to examine the commingling of different identities within Palestine’ – Electronic Intifada 

‘Khamis skilfully evokes a vivid sense of time and place, in particular the Wadi Nisnas souk in which Mais lives. However, the fragmentary nature of the narrative is also its weakness – Khamis offers various perspectives but her male protagonists are sketchily drawn. The introduction of bisexuality, implied in the relationship between Mais and Shahd, and later a third character, Christina, a blonde backpacker who makes a move on Mais, is never fully explored and consequently feels superfluous. I longed for Khamis to delve more deeply into Mais’s complexities’ – Independent


Ahmed Masoud. Vanished: The Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda (Rimal Books, 2015)

Publisher’s description: What does it take to discover the truth? Betrayal? Deception? Risking one’s own life? Omar Ouda did it all. Vanished is a fictional story set against the political unrest in Palestine, following a young boy trying to find his father. The deeper he delves into his father’s mysterious disappearance, the more he finds himself forced to make terrible choices, testing his loyalty to his country and his family. The book is also about friendship born out of difficult circumstances, presented here through the character of Ahmed who risks his life to help his friend in the quest to find his father. (…) While politics provide an important background to the story, the novel does not aim to put forth any political arguments. Instead, it sheds light on what it is like for two young boys to lead an ordinary life in an extraordinary place often described as ‘hell on earth’.


Vanished is a novel that urges greater compassion between Palestinians towards one another. The novel explains how a Hamas fighter was once a Fatah idealist, how collaborators are made and the internal horror that they face. There is an expression of revulsion at how brutal Palestinians have become to each other, both why Palestinians join security forces and why they leave them. There is a plea for forgiveness here, of Palestinians to each other and a call for unity against the source of the original and continuing violence (…) The novel has breadth without lacking in depth of feeling and portrayal’ – Electronic Intifada 


Kate Raphael. Murder Under the Bridge: A Palestine Mystery (She Writes Press, 2015)

Publisher’s description: When Rania – the only female Palestinian police detective in the northern West Bank, as well as a young mother in a rural community where many believe women should not have such a dangerous career – discovers the body of a foreign woman on the edge of her village, no one seems to want her look too deeply into what’s happened. But she finds an ally in Chloe – a gay, Jewish-American peace worker with a camera and a big attitude – and together, with the help of an annoying Israeli policeman, they work to solve the murder. As they do, secrets about war crimes and Israel’s thriving sex trafficking trade begin to surface – and Rania finds everything she holds dear in jeopardy.


‘The author readily acknowledges that her motive for writing the book was to explain the occupation in a way that’s accessible to Americans who might not read a political tract or attend a meeting. She has succeeded in creating a valuable resource for helping Americans understand the reality of the occupation. It’s a beautiful novel that works, with no jarring didactic overtones. It’s a well-constructed mystery, starting slowly and picking up the pace as Rania and Chloe get closer to figuring out what’s going on. The narrative provides clues and false leads that all end up contributing to the solution, ending in a dramatic climax. And it’s an absorbing account of two very real and complicated women as they work their way into both the discovery of the killer and a friendship with each other’ – Mondoweiss 


Sharon Rotbard. White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa (Pluto Press, 2015)

Publisher’s description: White City, Black City is a story of two intertwining narratives which reveals the hidden history of the region where now stands modern-day Tel Aviv. The new architectural landscape of this city, its Bauhaus-influenced modernist architecture glittering white, represents one side of the story, that of the White City, which rose from the sparse sand dunes to house a new Jewish society. But there is a second story – that of the Black City of Jaffa, the traces of which lie on the outskirts of the region, and which are rarely mentioned. In this book, Sharon Rotbard blows apart this palimpsest in a clear, fluent and challenging style, which promises to force the reality of what so many have praised as ‘progress’ into the mainstream discourse. White City, Black City is, all at once, an angry uncovering of a vanished history, a book mourning the loss of an architectural heritage, a careful study in urban design and a beautifully written narrative history.


‘According to Rotbard, an Israeli historian and architect, architecture, like war, is politics by other means. White City Black City charts how Tel Aviv, founded in the early 20th century and developed in the interwar years by Jewish settlers in tandem with the British mandate’s colonial administrators, grew out of and then consumed its parent, the ancient city of Jaffa (…) [A]s an architectural and political history of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, this book is a truly comprehensive demolition job’ – Guardian 


Elias Sanbar. The Palestinians: Photographs of a Land and its People from 1839 to the Present Day (Yale University Press, 2015)

Publisher’s description: A crossroads of religions, politics, and cultures with deep symbolic and historical significance, the holy land of Palestine has a resonance far greater than its size. Notably, the centuries-old conflict there has catapulted this tiny area to the centre of the world stage. For reasons such as these, Palestine has long been a source of fascination for photographers, and it is one of the most frequently photographed places in the world. This engrossing publication examines images of Palestine taken over the course of nearly 200 years, showing the various phases of its pictorial history. Elias Sanbar provides commentaries on this impressive and visually stunning opus, showing how a highly symbolic place and its people have been both captured and abstracted by the camera.


‘Sanbar puts forward a collection of images taken of both Palestine and Palestinians over 200 years as a way to draw attention to colonial clichés, oriental representations and preconceived ideas of a land and its people, images which have ultimately contributed towards a global misunderstanding of Palestine (…) The Palestinians offers an alternative way to look at Palestine, a glimpse beyond the headlines. But it also leaves you with a question: How do these “alternative” images come to be adopted as the “normal” lens through which the world views Palestine?’ – Palestine Book Awards


Fazal Sheikh. The Erasure Trilogy: Memory Trace; Desert Bloom; Independence/Nakba (Steidl, 2015)

Publisher’s description: The Erasure Trilogy explores the anguish caused by the loss of memory – by forgetting, amnesia or suppression – and the resulting human desire to preserve memory, all seen through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Memory Trace depicts the ruins caused by the Arab-Israeli War of 1948: portraits of those traumatized by violence, devastated landscapes and fragments of buildings. This visual poem suggests the irreparable loss of a lingering past that augurs a painful and difficult future. Tracing the ironic consequences of David Ben-Gurion’s dream of settling the Negev and making the ‘desert bloom’, the aerial photographs in Sheikh’s Desert Bloom reveal the myriad actions that have displaced and erased the Bedouins who have lived in the desert for generations. Here we see the extreme transformation of the landscape through erosion, mining, military training camps, the demolition of villages and afforestation. Through Sheikh’s lens the desert becomes both an archive of violence and a record of human attempts to erase it. Independence/Nakba consists of sixty-six diptychs – one for each year since 1948 – pairing people from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of gradually increasing age. The double portraits query the relations between Israelis and Palestinians before the founding of the Israeli State’

ReviewsNew York Times (subscription required)


Lilas Taha. Bitter Almonds (Bloomsbury Qatar, 2015)

Publisher’s description: Omar is an orphaned Palestinian born into chaos and driven by forces beyond his control to find his place in the world. He has only one thing to hold on to: a love that propels him forward. Nadia is young and idealistic. Her attempts to be oblivious to the bleak reality in Damascus are thwarted by her cowardly brother. Will she be able to break out of her traditional social mould to create her own destiny? Heartbreaking and moving, Bitter Almonds is about displacement and exile, family duty and honour, and the universal feelings of love and loss.


‘Lilas Taha’s novel Bitter Almonds explores the meaning of family in the Palestinian diaspora; unconventional, unrelated and unbound by blood ties (…) Despite structural flaws, the novel deals poignantly with both the issue of drawing the boundaries of responsibility along familial lines and, by extension, along national lines, in the sense that filial responsibility is tied to national identity’ – Middle East Monitor


Waleed Abu-Ghazeleh and Afzal Huda. Love Wins: Palestinian Perseverance Behind Walls (Olive Branch Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: During the summer of 2011, armed with a camera and a map, award-winning Canadian filmmaker and photographer Afzal Huda set out to chronicle the Separation Wall in Palestine. His aim was to magnify the ugly face of the Wall and depict the contradictions and hardships endured by human beings living under a military occupation. He was intent on showing the world what it was like to live in an open air prison and how Palestinians have developed ways to cope with the Wall’s existence. Afzal spent three weeks doing just that: visiting all the Palestinian areas along the Wall and interviewing people young and old from all walks of life. But instead of the overwhelming reality of misery and suffering he had witnessed with his own eyes, his camera caught images of a contrasting nature: photos of people and faces of compassion, perseverance and hope rarely seen in mainstream media’s usual portrayal of Palestinians.


‘This photo journal takes its title from the slogan – LOVE WINS – written large in English and Arabic amidst a wealth of other graffiti on a section of the Apartheid Wall in Palestine, as can be seen on the cover image. The book itself is a labour of love – love of Palestine, of humanity, of life. It is obviously the result of a collective effort, but the main credit goes to Waleed Abu Ghazaleh, who conceived the idea and design, and Afzal Huda, who took the outstanding photos that give Love Wins its substance and impact’ – Jordan Times


Refaat Alareer (ed.). Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza (Just World Books, 2014)

Publisher’s description: 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.) These stories are acts of resistance and defiance, proclaiming the endurance of Palestinians and the continuing resilience and creativity of their culture in the face of ongoing obstacles and attempts to silence them.


‘Given its subject matter, this text is, of course, not an “easy read”. Each of the stories challenges, disturbs, and unsettles the reader in its own way. The brevity of the stories often imitates the immediacy and urgency the writers must have felt during “Operation Cast Lead”, as well as reflecting the hand-to-mouth, day-to-day existence which many Gazans endure. However the text is not necessarily without fault. The stories are works of fiction but, on the whole, the chosen subject matter positions the contributors as witnesses to Israeli military violence, oppression and occupation first and foremost, and as writers second. The result of this is that some of the writers struggle to balance the political messages they wish to convey with their literary creativity (…) Readers of Gaza Writes Back will be rewarded with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by those who are essentially trapped in Gaza. Each story is crafted differently and each stands as testament to the importance of creativity and storytelling in the face of oppression, misinformation and military control’ – Journal of Internal Displacement (downloads as PDF)


Henry Bell and Sarah Irving (eds.). A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Palestinian Poetry (Freight Books, 2014)

Publisher’s description: A major collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry translated by 25 of Scotland’s very best writers including Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, James Robertson, Jackie Kay, William Letford, Aonghas MacNeacail, DM Black, Tom Pow, Ron Butlin and John Glenday. Edited by Henry Bell and Sarah Irving. A Bird Is Not a Stone is a unique cultural exchange, giving both English and Arabic readers a unique insight into the political, social and emotional landscape of today’s Palestine. Includes both established and emerging Palestinian poets.


‘All praise must be given to Sarah Irving and Henry Bell for carrying through this project, to the painstakingly hard work of the “bridge translators”, to the Palestinian poets, and to the translators who have succeeded in putting themselves into the mind’s eye of the poets’ – The Bottle Imp


Radwa Ashour. The Woman from Tantoura: A Novel of Palestine (American University in Cairo Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: Palestine. For most of us, the word brings to mind a series of confused images and disjointed associations – massacres, refugee camps, UN resolutions, settlements, terrorist attacks, war, occupation, checkered kuffiyehs and suicide bombers, a seemingly endless cycle of death and destruction. This novel does not shy away from such painful images, but it is first and foremost a powerful human story, following the life of a young girl from her days in the village of al-Tantoura in Palestine up to the dawn of the new century. We participate in events as they unfold, seeing them through the uneducated but sharply intelligent mind of Ruqayya, as she tries to make sense of all that has happened to her and her family. With her, we live her love of her land and of her people; we feel the repeated pain of loss, of diaspora, and of cross-generational misunderstanding; and above all, we come to know her indomitable human spirit.


The Woman from Tantoura is a substantial, satisfying, weighty book. Those who know Ashour’s earlier work – particularly Spectres (English edition, 2010) – will find familiar themes: the massacres by which epochs in modern Palestinian history have been defined, the way in which women negotiate life in changing, politicized worlds, and issues of reality, memory and perception. But where Spectres interweaves the stories of two women in Egypt, one with the same name as the author, The Woman from Tantoura is structurally simpler, its narrative more direct. Less an interweaving of consciousnesses, its multiple voices head generally in the same direction. The result is rich, challenging and indisputably important; imperfect, but complex in its imperfections; a female counterpart, perhaps, to Elias Khoury’s monumental Gate of the Sun’ – Electronic Intifada


Anna Bernard. Rhetorics of Belonging: Nation, Narration and Israel/Palestine (Liverpool University Press, 2014; the book may be read online here)

Publisher’s description: The crisis in Israel/Palestine has long been the world’s most visible military conflict. Yet the region’s cultural and intellectual life remains all but unknown to most foreign observers, which means that literary texts that make it into circulation abroad tend to be received as historical documents rather than aesthetic artefacts. Rhetorics of Belonging examines the diverse ways in which Palestinian and Israeli world writers have responded to the expectation that they will ‘narrate’ the nation, invigorating critical debates about the political and artistic value of national narration as a reading and writing practice. It considers writers whose work is rarely discussed together, offering new readings of the work of Edward Said, Amos Oz, Mourid Barghouti, Orly Castel-Bloom, Sahar Khalifeh, and Anton Shammas. This book helps to restore the category of the nation to contemporary literary criticism by attending to a context where the idea of the nation is so central a part of everyday experience that writers cannot not address it, and readers cannot help but read for it. It also points a way toward a relational literary history of Israel/Palestine, one that would situate Palestinian and Israeli writing in the context of a history of antagonistic interaction.


‘While Israeli and Palestinian narratives are revisited through the postcolonial lens, postcolonialism is reconsidered, and its limitations and potential complicity with globalisation and neo-imperialism fully addressed, via robust literary analysis of the primary texts. Thus, Bernard argues that dismissing national allegories as a thing of the past is tantamount to imposing a Western post-national cultural map on the rest of the globe and to being complicit with an imposed transnational global order (…) [A] challenging and a highly stimulating read’ – Commonwealth Essays and Studies


Najwan Darwish. Nothing More to Lose (NYRB Poets, 2014)

Publisher’s description: Nothing More to Lose is the first collection of poems by Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish to appear in English. Hailed across the Arab world and beyond, Darwish’s poetry walks the razor’s edge between despair and resistance, between dark humour and harsh political realities. With incisive imagery and passionate lyricism, Darwish confronts themes of equality and justice while offering a radical, more inclusive, rewriting of what it means to be both Arab and Palestinian living in Jerusalem, his birthplace.


‘Roughly halfway through Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose, wiping awkwardly at tears and trying self-consciously not to sob with my partner in the room, I found myself wondering what someone with no connection to Palestine would make of it (…) Here is what I think they would find: a collection of very short poems — often no more than a page — speaking of love, sorrow, loss, hope and despair in a voice simultaneously so passionate and so matter-of-fact that it stops the breath’ – NPR Books 


Lital Levy. Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (Princeton University Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: A Palestinian-Israeli poet declares a new state whose language, ‘Homelandic’, is a combination of Arabic and Hebrew. A Jewish-Israeli author imagines a ‘language plague’ that infects young Hebrew speakers with old world accents, and sends the narrator in search of his Arabic heritage. In Poetic Trespass, Lital Levy brings together such startling visions to offer the first in-depth study of the relationship between Hebrew and Arabic in the literature and culture of Israel/Palestine. More than that, she presents a captivating portrait of the literary imagination’s power to transgress political boundaries and transform ideas about language and belonging. Blending history and literature, Poetic Trespass traces the interwoven life of Arabic and Hebrew in Israel/Palestine from the turn of the twentieth century to the present, exposing the two languages’ intimate entanglements in contemporary works of prose, poetry, film, and visual art by both Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel. In a context where intense political and social pressures work to identify Jews with Hebrew and Palestinians with Arabic, Levy finds writers who have boldly crossed over this divide to create literature in the language of their ‘other’, as well as writers who bring the two languages into dialogue to rewrite them from within. (…) By revealing uncommon visions of what it means to write in Arabic and Hebrew, Poetic Trespass will change the way we understand literature and culture in the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian


‘This is a conceptually complex and sometimes obscure and difficult book. It is also, however, potentially very rewarding for certain audiences: for those immersed in Arabic and Hebrew literature, or for those interested in the workings and philosophies of languages. Perhaps most importantly, though, for those seriously engaged in the tough work of imagining a post-Zionist Middle East, it offers fragmentary but tantalizing tastes and possibilities’ – Electronic Intifada


Khaled Mattawa. Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet’s Art and His Nation (Syracuse University Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: In Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet’s Art and His Nation, Mattawa pays tribute to one of the most celebrated and well-read poets of our era. With detailed knowledge of Arabic verse and a firm grounding in Palestinian history, Mattawa explores the ways in which Darwish’s aesthetics have played a crucial role in shaping and maintaining Palestinian identity and culture through decades of warfare, attrition, exile, and land confiscation. Mattawa chronicles the evolution of his poetry, from a young poet igniting resistance in occupied land to his decades in exile where his work grew in ambition and scope. In doing so, Mattawa reveals Darwish’s verse to be both rooted to its place of longing and to transcend place, as it reaches for the universal and the human.


‘It is hard to talk about modern Palestinian culture without mentioning Mahmoud Darwish. The late Palestinian “poet laureate,” one of the greatest poets writing in Arabic in the twentieth century, Darwish’s brilliance looms large, six years after his death (…) This isn’t a lengthy book – the text comes in at 174 pages – but it acts as a useful bridge between the academic scholarship on Darwish and the general reader. It is particularly useful in that as well as applying literary theorists such as Mikhail Bakhtin and Gayatri Spivak to Darwish’s work, Mattawa engages with Arabic literary criticism from figures such as Raja al-Naqqash, Ahlam Yahya and Adel Usta – important, insightful writers whose work is largely inaccessible to Western audiences. For the reader seeking a clear-eyed, unsentimental, yet admiring and in-depth look at Darwish’s work and the historic events in which he wrote, this is an excellent book’ – Electronic Intifada 


David McDonald. My Voice Is My Weapon: Music, Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance (Duke University Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: In My Voice Is My Weapon, David A. McDonald rethinks the conventional history of the Palestinian crisis through an ethnographic analysis of music and musicians, protest songs, and popular culture. Charting a historical narrative that stretches from the late-Ottoman period through the end of the second Palestinian intifada, McDonald examines the shifting politics of music in its capacity to both reflect and shape fundamental aspects of national identity. Drawing case studies from Palestinian communities in Israel, in exile, and under occupation, McDonald grapples with the theoretical and methodological challenges of tracing “resistance” in the popular imagination, attempting to reveal the nuanced ways in which Palestinians have confronted and opposed the traumas of foreign occupation. The first of its kind, this book offers an in-depth ethnomusicological analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, contributing a performative perspective to the larger scholarly conversation about one of the world’s most contested humanitarian issues.


‘Quibbles aside, McDonald has given us a well researched and thoughtfully written book that, as he humbly affirms in his epilogue “lay[s] a foundation for further ethnographic inquiry into the lives and experiences of those tremendous musicians absent from this text” (…) As a foundation it is indeed a solid one, with ample room for further research by McDonald himself and fellow scholars in the field’ – Ethnomusicology Review


Atef Abu Saif (ed.). The Book of Gaza: A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, 2014)

Publisher’s description: Under the Israeli occupation of the ’70s and ’80s, writers in Gaza had to go to considerable lengths to ever have a chance of seeing their work in print. Manuscripts were written out longhand, invariably under pseudonyms, and smuggled out of the Strip to Jerusalem, Cairo or Beirut, where they then had to be typed up. Consequently, fiction grew shorter, novels became novellas, and short stories flourished as the city’s form of choice. Indeed, to Palestinians elsewhere, Gaza became known as ‘the exporter of oranges and short stories’. This anthology brings together some of the pioneers of the Gazan short story from that era, as well as younger exponents of the form, with ten stories that offer glimpses of life in the Strip that go beyond the global media headlines; stories of anxiety, oppression, and violence, but also of resilience and hope, of what it means to be a Palestinian, and how that identity is continually being reforged; stories of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what many have called ‘the largest prison in the world’.


The Book of Gaza collects ten Gazan short stories by ten different writers in a range of styles and views on life in the Strip, with an emphasis on women’s narratives (…) It is a book that evokes an atmosphere rather than giving us details on who, what, when, and where, and, most of all, we get an idea of the interests, obsessions, and stylistic choices of the contemporary Gazan short story’ – Asian Review of Books


Raba’i al-Madhoun. The Lady from Tel-Aviv (Telegram Books, 2013)

Publisher’s description: In the economy class of a plane, the lives of two passengers intersect: Walid Dahman, a Palestinian writer, is returning to his family in Gaza for the first time in thirty-eight years, and Dana Ahova, an Israeli actress, is on her way back to Tel Aviv. As the night sky hurtles past, what each confides and conceals will expose the chasm between them in the land they both call home. The Lady from Tel Aviv is both a meditation on the nature of fiction and an incisive exploration of the effects of occupation on a people and what it is to be a Palestinian. Al-Madhoun’s precise, poetic use of language and sardonic humour bring home political realities and how people live them, on both sides of the checkpoints.


‘Madhoun’s depiction of the loving, claustrophobic, violent, beautiful, steadfast, endangered place that is Gaza is enthralling. There is a visceral veracity to the cramped juxtaposition of Walid hearing about the martyrdom in the second intifada of 14 relatives with his recollections of moments of forbidden lust. Mocking anecdotes about the Palestinian Authority refusing to sell Gaza sewage – “the PA considers excrement a non-negotiable part of national sovereignty, and would never compromise on the issue without a general referendum” – accompany the tender, painful process of re-learning relationships with old friends and relatives. So, while The Lady from Tel Aviv is perhaps not the novel one might expect from the title or the blurb, it is an elegantly-written, intriguing, moving book’ – Electronic Intifada


Shani Boianjiu. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth, 2013)

Publisher’s description: Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts. In a relentlessly energetic and arresting voice marked by humour and fierce intelligence, Shani Boianjiu, winner of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’, creates an unforgettably intense world, capturing that unique time in a young woman’s life when a single moment can change everything.


‘This forceful account of three young female conscripts in the Israeli Defence Force is based on the author’s own mandatory national service. Shani Boianjiu’s is an extravagant talent, which, while unevenly displayed, makes for a memorably bold novel’ – Telegraph

‘The book has that contradictory impulse of much army fiction, in which compulsory military service is depicted as brutalising a nation’s young adults (what it does to those living under military occupation is not in the frame), as well as an elevating rites-of-passage (…) The story’s political framework is located within the mindset of the Israeli army. Some readers have found irony in Boianjiu’s narrative; others will just find it uncomfortable. It captures well the dissonance of a transition into womanhood that must take place within the fear-soaked tedium of compulsory military service. But for me, the narrative feels more like a succession of vignettes – it isn’t strong enough to make me care about the characters, or carry the book through to its end’ – Guardian


Trevor Mostyn (ed.). Reading Palestine: A Literary Guide (Signal Books, 2013)

Publisher’s description: Reading Palestine: A Literary Guide looks without prejudice at Israel-Palestine through the eyes of writers from biblical times to the present day, allowing the region to come alive through the pens of such diverse personalities as Napoleon Bonaparte, Gustave Flaubert, Lord Curzon, T. E. Lawrence, Sacheverell Sitwell, Linda Grant and Howard Jacobson. With thematic introductions and explanatory notes, the selection includes Jewish, Christian, Muslim and secular writings as well as the contrasting narratives of Israeli and Palestinian identity. (…) This book encompasses the intellectual and social dimensions of the conflict, including the foundations of Zionism and the modern growth of Palestinian culture. But it also looks way beyond the conflict to look at fiction, poetry, costume and family life. From the architect of Zionism Theodor Herzl to modern Palestinian thinkers such as Edward Said, it explores opposite viewpoints and national loyalties. In works of the imagination it includes the writing of myriad and sometimes unexpected authors such as Mark Twain, Noel Coward, Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill. Much more than another account of the conflict, this book gives voice to both Israeli and Palestinian writers as well as those from outside the region. It considers Palestine’s long and much-mythologized history, its landscapes and cities and the way in which it has inspired generations of writers, artists and thinkers.


Olivia Snaije and Mitchell Albert (eds.). Keep Your Eye on the Wall: Palestinian Landscapes (Saqi Books, 2013)

Publisher’s description: Keep Your Eye on the Wall brings together seven award-winning artist-photographers and four essayists, all responding to the Wall in images or words, specially commissioned for this book. The photographers present unique perspectives, whether documenting the journey of labourers across the barrier, the desolation of abandoned checkpoints or the tattered posters of “martyrs” on a wall in Gaza. Mitchell Albert and Olivia Snaije envisioned a book that would curate a selection of wall graffiti past and present, from the great names in the form to young Palestinians who sprayed their initials by the people whose lives were most affected: Palestinians themselves.


Keep Your Eye on the Wall, published by Saqi Books, draws together seven award-winning photographers and essayists who reflect, in their own way, on this construction. The publication has a concertina binding so the pages can be pulled out to sit side by side, designed to evoke the concrete panels themselves (…) Both the photographs in this book, and the graffiti and murals that are painted onto the wall, have been recognised as works of art in their own right, a fact that has caused debate both within the Palestinian artistic community and beyond’ – Palestine Book Awards


William Sutcliffe. The Wall (Bloomsbury, 2013)

Publisher’s description: Joshua is thirteen. He lives with his mother and stepfather in Amarias, an isolated town on top of a hill, where all the houses are brand new. At the edge of Amarias is a high wall, guarded by soldiers, which can only be crossed through a heavily fortified checkpoint. Joshua has been taught that beyond the concrete is a brutal and unforgiving enemy, and that The Wall is the only thing keeping him and his people safe. One day, looking for a lost football, Joshua stumbles across a tunnel which leads towards this forbidden territory. He knows he won’t get another opportunity to see what is beyond The Wall until he’s old enough for military service, and the chance to crawl through and solve the mystery is too tempting to resist. He’s heard plenty of stories about the other side, but nothing has prepared him for what he finds… The Wall is a novel about a boy who undertakes a short journey to another world, to a place where everything he knows about loyalty, identity and justice is turned upside down. It is also a political fable that powerfully evokes the realities of life on the West Bank, telling the story of a Settler child who finds there are two sides to every story.


‘This is not a novel of woolly moral equivalencies or easy solutions, but one that believes in empathy and redemption – and gives them a powerful heart. The Wall is published with two covers – one aimed at YA readers, the other at adults. It doesn’t matter which version you buy: either way, it’ll sit more than comfortably on a bookshelf between The Hunger Games and Animal Farm’ – Guardian

The Wall is a book felt rather than thought, primarily through Joshua’s body, viscerally. It makes for fast-paced, exciting reading’ – Independent


Eli Amir. Yasmine (Halban Publishers, 2012)

Publisher’s description: ‘I’m an Arab Jew. I listen to classical music in the morning and Arabic music in the evening’. Surprisingly for someone so young, Nuri Imari (whose family we encountered in The Dove Flyer), is appointed advisor on Arab affairs to the Israeli government. With little guidance he is asked by his boss to ‘set up an office in East Jerusalem, sniff around to see what’s happening there, meet their effendis, and provide me with your evaluations’.  Everyone is reeling from the aftermath of the Six Day War. The Palestinians cannot comprehend their losses, whilst the Israelis are waking up to a new political reality – and new responsibilities. Nuri discovers complexities and loyalties he could never have imagined. He tries to steer a humane course but soon finds himself confronting bigotry and hatred on both sides. And then he meets Yasmine, a Palestinian woman recently returned from Paris…


‘The Romeo-and-Juliet story of Nuri and Yasmine unfolds much as we might expect (…) Yet Yasmine – in Yael Lotan’s robust and readable translation from the Hebrew – remains a hugely likeable, and deeply illuminating, novel. Virtually an Arab in culture, yet a Jew in family, faith and now history, “a bird of passage wandering between two worlds”, Nuri embodies the contradictions of his people: those Middle Eastern Jews who perhaps held the key to peace’ – Independent


Grace Beeler and Joan Dobbie (eds.). Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle (Lost Horse Press, 2012)

Publisher’s description: In 2009, the editors, Joan Dobbie and Grace Beeler, both Jewish descendants of Holocaust survivors, reeling against the atrocities of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza massacre, issued a call for poetry. The ad, first posted in Poets & Writers read, ‘Are you Jewish or Palestinian? Of Palestinian or Jewish heritage? Please submit poetry for an anthology that strives for understanding in these troubled times. All points of view wanted in the belief that poetry can create understanding and understanding can dull hatred’. In response, the process that then followed embodied much of the complex dynamic of the conflict itself. Editors, while not wanting to foreclose any possible reading, were met with the need to attend to disparity of voice, asymmetry, and incongruence of historical awareness.


Kamal Boullata. Between Exits: Paintings by Hani Zurob (Black Dog Publishing, 2012)

Publisher’s description: Between Exits is organised chronologically to offer the reader a comprehensive insight into Zurob’s key paintings and series of the past two decades. Painter and writer Kamal Boullata takes the reader through Zurob’s art and carefully reveals how each body of work, created in changing periods of the artist’s life, reflects evolving approaches to the understanding of self as well as strategies of collective belonging which the artist’s work constantly probes. The conflicted Palestinian identity is mediated and questioned recurringly throughout Zurob’s works and Between Exits thus addresses the notion of movement and displacement that are central to the Palestinian everyday reality. Hani Zurob’s practice provides an important voice in contemporary Palestinian culture, as well as a significant contribution to the creation of an Arab aesthetic. Ultimately though, while Zurob’s art gives powerful expression to the Palestinian collective experience, it can also be seen in the context of more universal themes of personal identity and embraces humanity beyond the Palestinian context.


‘It is a pity that the lavish production – which includes color reproductions not only of many of Zurob’s paintings, but of contextualizing works by Shammout and by contemporaries of Zurob such as Larissa Sansour and Steve Sabella – wasn’t matched by decent proof-reading, because some of the mistakes are downright distracting. But that’s a small gripe for this important contribution to the documentation of Palestinian culture’ – Electronic Intifada


Michelle Cohen Corasanti. The Almond Tree (Garnet Publishing, 2012)

Publisher’s description: A moving story of family, identity and struggle skilfully told by a very exciting new author. A novel set in the midst of turbulence and written by an author with a real understanding of life on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. With a promising mind that impresses the elders in his village, where family and cause are more important than individual dreams, young Palestinian Ichmad Hamid struggles with his inability to help those who are closest to him. Living on disputed land, his entire village operates in constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other. On Ichmad’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions destroyed, and his siblings succumbing to hatred, Ichmad begins an inspiring journey to save his desperate and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence, and discovers a new hope for the future. In writing The Almond Tree Michelle Cohen Corasanti drew upon her personal experience of living in Israel for many years as well as her education in Middle Eastern studies, both in Israel and the US.


‘[T]his racist, orientalist novel serves to make a hero of a self-loathing obsequious Palestinian cartoon of a man, and makes a pitiful villain of his brother, Abbas, who opts to defend his family and people by whatever means necessary.’ – Al Jazeera

‘[T]he author’s Jewish-American descent has hijacked most of the dialogue about her current work. The book, however, stands its own ground and deserves credit for being much more. The text is crisp and simple, sometimes accentuated with the suspense of a Dan Brown novel and at others, bordering on the spirituality of a Paulo Coelho book’ – Tribune


Selma Dabbagh. Out of It (Bloomsbury, 2012)

Publisher’s description: Written with extraordinary humanity and humour, and moving between Gaza, London and the Gulf, Out of It is a tale that redefines Palestine and its people. It follows the lives of Rashid and Iman as they try to forge places for themselves in the midst of occupation, religious fundamentalism and the divisions between Palestinian factions. It tells of family secrets, unlikely love stories and unburied tragedies as it captures the frustrations and energies of the modern Arab World.


‘This is a very successful debut novel from a British Palestinian writer who has already notched up successes with her short stories. Like a good short story, Out of It manages to fit in a great deal without feeling crowded. Dabbagh does group scenes best of all, finely observing and analysing power relationships, and masterfully evokes the complexity of family relationships, with their tangles of love, jealousy, resentment, intimacy and distance’ – Guardian 

‘There can be a trade-off between political engagement and literary merit, but its rich narrative treatment takes this novel beyond mere agitprop. The author’s assured command of her material means she can switch registers with ease, interleaving escalating tension and welcome humour – not least Rashid’s attachment to the beloved marijuana plant he names Gloria. Dabbagh herself scores highly with her debut novel’ – Independent


Aidan Andrew Dun. Unholyland (Hesperus, 2012)

Publisher’s description: Unholyland is a love story in 264 sonnets. Against the background of daily events in Israel and the West Bank, an Israeli DJ meets and falls in love with a Palestinian rapper. In form, Dun’s verses are a mixture of classical structures and free-ranging rap. They are earthy and immediate, and as well as appealing to regular poetry readers, Unholyland will attract a wider range of people who will be drawn along by the rapidly developing story.


‘Hidden in the unlikely garb of a paperback with a black and red cover reminiscent of a 1970’s socialist group report, this is a whole book in a sequence of modernist sonnets, a love story and a political story of history and music and young people in the Gaza Strip. It is a page-turner of a poem, a sustained narrative that stands up to the best of its kind, which is not a British poem but Eugene Onegin. The difference is that the plot of Unholyland has no unkindness except from the political situation, the ongoing flack of daily warfare’ – Poetry Scotland Reviews

‘This work guns across the deserts of history like the spinning BMW rearwheels driven by the characters in the story. It’s got an upbeat street spirit and a gloriously refreshing liquid energy that allows 264 sonnets to dance in spate through the Blakean canyons of the Holy Land of Imagination’ – Big Bridge


Khaled Furani. Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2012)

Publisher’s description: Silencing the Sea follows Palestinian poets’ debates about their craft as they traverse multiple and competing realities of secularism and religion, expulsion and occupation, art, politics, immortality, death, fame, and obscurity. Khaled Furani takes his reader down ancient roads and across military checkpoints to join the poets’ worlds and engage with the rhythms of their lifelong journeys in Islamic and Arabic history, language, and verse. (…) Poetry, the traditional repository of Arab history, has become the preeminent medium of Palestinian memory in exile. In probing poets’ writings, this work investigates how struggles over poetic form can host larger struggles over authority, knowledge, language, and freedom. It reveals a very intimate and venerated world, entwining art, intellect, and politics, narrating previously untold stories of a highly stereotyped people.


‘[I]t gives an in-depth portrait of an obscure but intriguing phenomenon, the poetry festivals which bloomed in Israeli-occupied Palestinian villages, mainly in the Galilee, in the 1950s and ’60s. These festivals were an integral part of the cultural resistance of the era, and many of the older poets with whom Furani spoke were subjected to house arrest, sackings and imprisonment for participating (…) It’s impossible to capture in one review the multifaceted richness of this book. It isn’t special only because of the range of topics it interweaves and the significant questions it poses. It is also that rare thing, an academic text which is beautifully written and a genuine pleasure to read. Not only this, but the publishers have apparently decided that the subject is worth presenting well, with the intricate Arabic calligraphy of the front cover replicated throughout the book. This is an intelligent, thoughtful study, honest in its approach, complex in its contemplations and lovely in its presentation’ – Electronic Intifada


Sahar Khalifeh. Of Noble Origins: A Palestinian Novel (American University in Cairo Press, 2012)

Publisher’s description: The Qahtan are a Palestinian family that claims to have originated in the Arabian Peninsula, descended from the family of the Prophet Muhammad. This connection has given its members a certain ascendancy in their society, and has influenced their cultural and political choices. The true test occurs when the Qahtanis, like other Palestinians, confront two enemies after the First World War: the British Mandate and the Zionist movement. Observing the gradual and increasing illegal Jewish immigration and land appropriation, the Palestinians come to realize they have been betrayed by a power that “fulfilled their promises to the Jews and reneged on their promises to the Arabs.” Sahar Khalifeh brings to the forefront the inner conflicts of Palestinian society as it struggles to affirm its cultural and national identity, save its threatened homeland, and maintain a semblance of normalcy in otherwise abnormal circumstances.


‘The histories Khalifeh is weaving together are public declarations and private thoughts, the history of men and the histories of women. The book sometimes suggests that today’s “branches” have grown directly from yesterday’s “roots,” as in the original Arabic title, Root and Branch. But when it gets away from large narrative pronouncements, Of Noble Origins is remarkable in its ability to balance a wide range of characters in a believable manner’ – Women’s Review of Books


Emma McEvoy: The Inbetween People (Ashgrove Press, 2012)

Publisher’s description: ‘I am writing this for you Saleem. I am writing about us, about how I loved you, and how I killed you’. As Avi Goldberg, the son of a Jewish pioneer, sits at a desk in a dark cell in a military prison in the Negev desert, he fills the long nights writing about his friend Saleem, an Israeli Arab he befriended on a beach one scorching July day, and the story of Saleem’s family, whose loss of their Ancestral home in 1948 cast a long shadow over their lives. Avi and Saleem understand about the past: they believe it can be buried, reduced to nothing. But then September 2000 comes and war breaks out – endless, unforgiving and filled with loss. And in the midst of the Intifada, which rips their peoples apart, they both learn that war devours everything, that even seemingly insignificant, utterly mundane, things get lost in war and that, sometimes, if you do not speak of these things, they are lost to you forever. Set amongst the white chalk Galilee Mountains and the hostile desert terrain of the Negev Desert, The Inbetween People is a story of longing that deals with hatred, forgiveness, and the search for redemption.


The Inbetween People is a delicate novel in which the lives of its characters drive the narrative and the broader politics of the region stay in soft focus for most of the time before exploding, literally, into the story. Yet The Inbetween People is not a perfect novel and seems somehow unfinished: storylines and characters could have perhaps been further developed’ – New York Journal of Books 

‘A first novel that examines personal grief and political grievances in contemporary Israel … An impressive debut’ – Kirkus Reviews


Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman. Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me (Hill & Wang, 2012)

Publisher’s description:  Harvey Pekar’s mother was a Zionist by way of politics. His father was a Zionist by way of faith. Whether Harvey was going to daily Hebrew classes or attending Zionist picnics, he grew up a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. But soon he found himself questioning the very beliefs and ideals of his parents. In Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, the final graphic memoir from the man who defined the genre, Pekar explores what it means to be Jewish and what Israel means to the Jews. Over the course of a single day in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Pekar and the illustrator JT Waldman wrestle with the mythologies and realities surrounding the Jewish homeland. Pekar interweaves his increasing disillusionment with the modern state of Israel with a comprehensive history of the Jewish people from biblical times to the present, and the result is a personal and historical odyssey of uncommon power. Plainspoken and empathetic, Pekar had no patience for injustice and prejudice in any form, and though he comes to understand the roots of his parents’ unquestioning love for Israel, he arrives at the firm belief that all peoples should be held to the same universal standards of decency, fairness, and democracy.


‘In Not the Israel my Parents Promised Me, Pekar speaks with the brutal honesty that characterizes all of his work. This is not a comprehensive examination of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, but it is a compelling and persuasive argument against nationalism and for justice’ – Electronic Intifada 


Sara Shilo. The Falafel King Is Dead (Portobello, 2012)

Publisher’s description: The town has lost its famed falafel king, but the Dadon family have also lost a father and husband. Living with the daily threat of Katyusha missiles from neighbouring Lebanon, and struggling to survive amid the rubble of their lives, Simona and her three children each find their own way of coping with their grief, their fear and their hopes. Raw, lyrical, shocking and moving, Sara Shilo’s powerful debut novel recounts the life of an ordinary Israeli family over the course of a single, extraordinary day in prose that we have never before encountered in contemporary Hebrew literature.


‘[A]t its core this story – which so struck the Israeli novelist David Grossman that he mentored it into publication – is a beautifully drawn account of a family collapsing under an unbearable loss, straining against the weight of a perverse secret – a lie that one of the family narrators explains has “itself become a family member … no-one made it up; it was just born from itself”. Pivoted on a death, this novel becomes a life-affirming story of love – a cluttered, clumsy family love that colours the characters and wills them into keeping on and moving forward. And it is this driving emotion that ultimately makes Shilo’s first novel so readable and so engaging’ – Guardian  

‘Shilo’s achievement is to evoke an Israel which the outside world knows little about, with a level of poverty and ignorance which typifies the lives of many North African immigrants from the 1960s. The English title is ironic because, in Israel, falafel is street food and the Dadon family at the bottom of society. Politics come into the story in a tangential manner … This is a patchy novel from a gifted writer, which breaks new ground thematically even if the author does not sustain her unique take’ – Independent


Ghassan Zaqtan. Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems (Yale University Press, 2012)

Publisher’s description: In this inspired translation of Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, Ghassan Zaqtan’s tenth and most recent poetry collection, along with selected earlier poems, Fady Joudah brings to English-language readers the best work by one of the most important and original Palestinian poets of our time. With these poems Zaqtan enters new terrain, illuminating the vision of what Arabic poetry in general and Palestinian poetry in particular are capable of. Departing from the lush aesthetics of such celebrated predecessors as Mahmoud Darwish and Adonis, Zaqtan’s daily, delicate narrative, whirling catalogues, and at times austere aesthetics represent a new trajectory, a significant leap for young Arabic poets today.


‘Ghassan Zaqtan’s poems are like shells on a necklace. Each shell is different – it has its own color, texture, and sound when brought to the ear – but ultimately the shells are strung on a single thread. Each shell can stand on its own, but when gathered by the poet (and in this case also by translator Fady Joudah, who sets poems from two previous volumes alongside Zaqtan’s newest book Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me), their collective jingle gives us pleasures and connections that wouldn’t have been possible without reading them together’ – The Arts Fuse


Susan Abulhawa. Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Publisher’s description: Palestine, 1948. A mother clutches her six-month-old son as Israeli soldiers march through the village of Ein Hod. In a split second, her son is snatched from her arms and the fate of the Abulheja family is changed forever. Forced into a refugee camp in Jenin and exiled from the ancient village that is their lifeblood, the family struggles to rebuild their world. (…) Mornings in Jenin is a devastating novel of love and loss, war and oppression, and heartbreak and hope, spanning five countries and four generations of one of the most intractable conflicts of our lifetime.


‘The everyday life of cramped conditions, poverty, restriction, and the fear of soldiers, guns, checkpoints and beatings, would have been enough to make the novel unforgettable, but Abulhawa’s writing also shines, at best assured and unsentimental (…) Friendship, adolescence, love: ordinary events, offset against extraordinary circumstances, make the story live’ – Independent

‘This is a brave, sad book that tells the story of a nation and a people through tales of ordinary lives lived in extraordinary circumstances. Unsensational, at times even artless, it has a documentary feel that allows events to speak for themselves, and is all the more moving for it’ – Guardian


Henry Ralph Carse. Walls: Photographs of Israel and Palestine (Ziggurat Books, 2011)

Publisher’s description: Henry Ralph Carse is a pilgrim, scholar and practical theologian who has lived in the Middle East for forty years. His beautifully composed images strike a democratic balance between the Israeli and Palestinian cultures. People and places are recorded at crucial moments in the ever-changing disposition of a land in turmoil. Carse’s photographs have a charged immediacy and, at times, a philosophical stillness. They are the photographs of an outsider being absorbed into the fabric of another life. In his introduction Carse writes: “…no one has ever built a wall that could entirely protect the innocent, punish the guilty, separate pure from impure, or thwart the human gaze”.


‘That oh-so-relevant question of wisdom and force is posed in one of a series of essays written by Henry Ralph Carse, a theologian and scholar living in Jerusalem during the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada’ – Huffington Post


Yizhar. Khirbet Khizeh(Granta Books, 2011)

Publisher’s description: This 1949 novella about the violent expulsion of Palestinian villagers by the Israeli army has long been considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, and it has also given rise to fierce controversy over the years. Published just months after the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Khirbet Khizeh (…) was an immediate sensation when it first appeared. (…) The various debates it has prompted would themselves make Khirbet Khizeh worth reading, but the novella is much more than a vital historical document: it is also a great work of art. Yizhar’s haunting, lyrical style and charged registration of the landscape are in many ways as startling as his wrenchingly honest view of one of Israel’s defining moments.


‘Near the beginning of Khirbet Khizeh, the extraordinary 1949 novella by S Yizhar, the narrator describes the dangers, to a soldier, of thinking: “we knew that when the thoughts came, troubles began; better not to start thinking”. Khirbet Khizeh is a tribute to the power of critical thought to register the injustices of history’ – Guardian 


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