A Lebanese-American woman falls in love with a Palestinian activist, and starry-eyed romance gives way to disappointment, culture clash and a custody battle.
Like Betty Mahmoody, whose Not Without My Daughter (1991) anticipates much of this story, Kanafani labored valiantly to follow the cultural norms of her newfound home—at least for a while. She had been smitten by Marwan Kanafani, the soccer star turned PLO advisor: “Marwan was the axis around whom everyone else revolved,” she writes of their first meeting, “and he commanded the attention of our entire group, expounding on everything from politics to religion.” He continues to expound as their marriage comes undone a scant 30 pages later. Fortunately for him, her husband had other audiences: “As our relationship grew more distant, Marwan’s relationship with Arafat grew stronger.” When the author asked for custody of the children, her husband’s negative response was the final word, softened only years later, after the Intifada of 2000 made life on the West Bank dangerous (and even then, the children left only after Marwan’s new wife put them on a plane). All this drama is actually fairly undramatic. The worthier section is the author’s account of the Palestinians and Arab women she met along the way, many of whom work toward some vision of equality and, in many cases, are activists for peace as well as for women’s issues. She notes that Arafat’s brother Fathi was an activist at well, arranging midnight salons at which Israelis and Palestinians met, ate and talked through the night. “Everyone was eager to accept,” she writes, “scientists, doctors, teachers, artists, filmmakers, musicians. . . . As they shared ideas, people who had been perceived as enemies became human beings.”
Conspiracy theorists will find her notes on the fate of Arafat and his inner circle to be of interest, but otherwise this is pretty thin gruel.