The Palestinian story continues through the mode of fictional narratives, as authors use tales to deliver their social commentary on the conflicted land
Part Two: Narratives
‘This land, this holy land, is being sold to all intruders and stabbed by its own people!’
- Abd Al-Rahim Mahmud
Stories are, in so many ways, the best way to learn about facts. So many writers have depicted Palestine through fiction, reaching out to different audiences. The following are a few such remarkable stories.
Where the Streets had a Name by Randa Abdel Fattah
People tend to wake up and pay attention when a book about a volatile occupation is told through the voice of a child. Reviewers on Amazon have praised Randa Abdel Fattah’s book for opening their eyes to a conflict they didn’t know much about, and for filling them with a sense of optimism. This is one of a few books about Palestine/Israel written for young adults. Abdel Fattah, an Australian author of Palestinian heritage, writes about the conflict in a sensitive way, without directly pointing fingers or being overtly biased.
The story is about a young girl who lives in Bethlehem and has to deal with life under occupation. She encounters curfews, deaths, checkpoints, refugees, soldiers, peace activists, family arguments and weddings and somehow manages to infuse humour and light heartedness into underlying pain and grief. The essential plot is the journey of young Hayaat who tries to sneak into Jerusalem to get her sick grandma some soil from her beloved home. Along the way readers get a snippet of what living in the West Bank is like, and it’s enough to make you reach out for the tissue box by the end. If there’s one thing that stands out in the novel more than anything, it’s the complete sense of loss conveyed through the nostalgic descriptions of an occupied Palestinian homeland. Read it, and you’ll know what I mean. It may be more of a teen novel, but it is beautifully done.
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Good Reads describes Morning in Jenin as “a heart-wrenching, powerfully written novel that could do for Palestine what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan.” It begins on idyllic farmland in the 1940s and follows four generations of the Abulheja family. The story’s devastating plot kicks in when the family is removed from their home in Ein Hod and forced to live as refugees in Jenin. One of the young characters is snatched from his mother’s arms by an Israeli soldier. The other, named Amal, is born and bred in a refugee camp, until a scholarship is her ticket out and her life starts to take some interesting turns (no spoilers, that’s in the blurb).
Mornings in Jenin details love, loss, war and oppression, and nearly every page drips with a tragic turn of events. It is a perfect way to learn history as it covers nearly 70 years of the conflict – perfect for those who learn best through fiction. Although the action is elaborately interwoven into Palestinian politics and history, I can’t deny that the style was hard for me to get to grips with. It was a bit wishy-washy at times and the structure was interrupted by awkward changes in the point of view. Despite this, the story is beautifully conveyed with plenty of tear-jerking moments. Credit has to be given to Abdulhawa for the case she makes for mutual understanding and peace.
Tablet and Pen by Reza Aslan
This anthology of modern Middle East literature brings poetry and fiction from the anti-colonialism voices of Palestine, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and beyond to the West. Among the collection of poets and writers included, one is Abd Al-Rahim Mahmud. His harrowing poem, The Aqsa Mosque, written around the 1930s, describes the troubles brewing in Palestine, and today reads like a prophecy that the Middle East did not pay heed to quickly enough. Also included is Ghassan Kanafani’s Letter from Gaza, which lists the societal ills of the men and women living through the historical Arab-Israeli war.
The anthology is perfect for those with a yearning for good literature and with an interest in the Middle East. The poems and stories from Gaza and the West Bank will stay with you, the images conveyed may disturb you, but they certainly speak loudly of a freedom stolen and of a future which, without international intervention and a change in government policies, is becoming increasingly insecure.
Click here to read part one: Palestine in a Bunch of Words
Photo Credits: Snippits and Snappits
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