A noted Canadian nonfiction writer examines the Palestinian conflict through the viewpoints of known and emerging Palestinian writers.
Di Cintio (Walls: Travels Along the Barricades, 2013, etc.) first traveled to Israel in 1999. When he returned again in 2015, it was to seek out Palestinian writers to learn how they, rather than activists and politicians, saw the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this literary travelogue, the author records his encounters with Arab writers from the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. His first meeting was with a childhood friend of Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. Both lived through the takeover of their village by Israeli soldiers in 1948, a moment that would mark Darwish and his writing forever. Fascinated by the lively literary scene in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Darwish’s home-in-exile for many years, Di Cintio explored the perspectives of other notable West Bank writers, including Lebanese-born Maya Abu-Alhayyat, who grew up knowing Palestine only “from what I saw on television.” A poet and short story writer, she eventually began writing for the most vulnerable of all Palestinians: children robbed of their innocence by parents and teachers who “want[ed] them to behave like adults and participate in the struggle.” In Jerusalem, Di Cintio met writers like 20-year-old Mohammed El-Kurd, whose poetry not only celebrated the contributions of women to the Palestinian struggle, but also actively “challenge[d] Palestinian masculine ideals.” Traveling to Nazareth, Di Cintio encountered Raji Bathish, a gay short story writer who vehemently rejected the idea that Israel’s accommodation of LGBTQ people was “evidence of [its] humanitarian virtue.” In the Gaza Strip, Di Cintio chatted with Asmaa al-Ghul, yet another outspoken young writer, whose stories about “ ‘honor killings,’ domestic abuse and government corruption have earned her scorn from Gaza’s authorities and an enduring notoriety from readers.” Interweaving history and politics, the book introduces Western readers to the modern Palestinian literary scene while celebrating the rich diversity of voices that comprise it.
Illuminating reading from a highly engaged author.