In an illuminating memoir, the daughter of Edward Said, the writer, academic and symbol of Palestinian self-determination, explores her complex family history and its role in shaping her identity.
The author grappled with her convoluted family tree as a child, but she has grown weary trying to make sense of the conflicting information she has gathered. “I am a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian woman, but I grew up as a Jew in New York City. I began my life, however as a WASP,” she writes. Said comes from a warm, loving home often populated by visiting literary celebrities such as Lillian Hellman and Cornel West, and she is confused by what others say regarding Arab culture. “I resigned myself to believing that everything people said about my culture was true,” she writes, “because it was exhausting and futile to try to convince anyone otherwise.” The author was a high achiever attending Princeton, yet she also battled anorexia. Following a family trip to the Middle East, including her father’s homeland of Palestine, Said learned more about her family history. Her perspective shifted when she realized how little she knew about conditions in the Middle East, especially Gaza. As for many, Said’s life changed following 9/11. To many Americans, the author became part of a group, an Arab-American. Said joined an Arab-American theater group, exploring and enlarging the boundaries of her identity. Following her father’s death, the author spent a summer alone in Lebanon. During her visit, she discovered a compelling connection to the land and people and, ultimately, herself.
An enlightening, warm, timely coming-of-age story exploring the author’s search for identity framed within the confounding maze of America’s relationship with the Middle East.