A noted Palestinian journalist links her story as a woman born to subvert social norms to the story of her rebellious birthplace, Gaza.
Born in the Rafah refugee camp in 1982, al-Ghoul’s “strong-minded” ways manifested by age 5, when she yelled at a taxi driver for driving off with a favorite hat. The author's outspokenness eventually made her, in the eyes of both men and women, an inappropriate match for the young men she loved. Because she was under near-constant surveillance by the Muslim community and a family that, on her father's side, had close ties to Hamas, Gaza became a place of contradiction for her. While it surrounded the author in warmth, it also made her “suffer.” In 1990, she and her family moved to the Emirates, where, immersed in a Pan-Arabic culture, al-Ghoul witnessed how people spread an oppressive, “obscurantist model” of Islam that eventually made it back to individual Arab countries. She also watched as Yasser Arafat pledged allegiance to Saddam Hussein, which provoked outrage among Emirati authorities toward Palestinians. When al-Ghoul was 16, the family returned to Gaza. Told to cover herself and limit her interactions with boys, she became rebellious. Her father threatened to cut off fees if she attended a secular university; unwilling to bend to his wishes, she took a job to support herself and began to write. As a journalist who critiqued not only Israeli occupiers, but also Hamas—including the uncle she held responsible for killing members of the rival Fatah party, which she also opposed—the author quickly earned the reputation as a “corrupt [and] indecent woman” and became the target of death threats. That her personal life included marriages to and divorces from two Arab intellectuals only added fuel to the controversy surrounding her. Fierce and defiant, al-Ghoul’s book is as much a celebration of Gazan resilience in the face of raging internal and external conflicts as it is of one woman’s life-affirming strength of will.
An eloquent, provocative, and timely memoir.