Recommended Books on Palestine

Cairo Scene and Arab News recently recommended books that engage with Palestinian history and culture, including these four AUC Press novels.

Gaza Weddings by award-winning Palestinian novelist, Ibrahim Nasrallah, and translated by Nancy Roberts (Hoopoe, 2017), is set in the harsh grip of the Gaza Strip’s oppressive occupation, where twin sisters Randa and Lamis witness the unrelenting toll of violence.

With their menfolk almost entirely absent, it is the women who take center stage in this poignant novel of resilience, determination, and living against the odds.

The Woman from Tantoura by acclaimed Egyptian writer, Radwa Ashour (1946–2014), and translated by Kay Heikkinen (Hoopoe, 2019), is a poignant novel that delves into the experiences of a Palestinian woman named Ruqayya and is set against the backdrop of the Nakba in 1948.

The massacre in Tantoura drives her from her home and from everything she has ever known. Through her depth of experience and her indomitable spirit, we live her love of her land, her family, and her people, and we feel the repeated pain of loss and of exile.

I Saw Ramallah is the first narrative work of the renowned Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti (1944–2021), translated by bestselling author Ahdaf Soueif (AUC Press, 2003). It is an autobiographical memoir about the ironies of homecoming.

The bridge that Barghouti crosses as a young man when leaving his country in 1966 to pursue university studies in Cairo is the same bridge that he uses to cross back in 1996 after thirty long years in exile. Awarded the 1997 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.

My First and Only Love by acclaimed Palestinian writer Sarah Khalifeh, translated by Aida Bamia (Hoopoe, 2021), is a deeply poetic account of love and resistance through a young girl’s eyes. Nidal returns, after many decades of restless exile to her family home in Nablus, where she had lived with her grandmother before the 1948 Nakba that scattered her family across the globe.

Nidal falls in love with freedom fighter Rabie, who was her first and only real love—him and all that he represents: Palestine in its youth, the resistance fighters in the hills, the nation as embodied in her family home and in the land.

Here are other recommended fiction and non-fiction books about Palestine, published by AUC Press.

  • Mapping my Return: A Palestinian Memoir by Salman Abu Sitta, who was just ten years old when the Nakba—the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948—happened, forcing him from his home near Beersheba. Like many Palestinians of his generation, this traumatic loss and his enduring desire to return would be the defining features of his life from that moment on.
  • Open Gaza: Architectures of Hope, edited by Michael Sorkin and Deen Sharp, is a cutting-edge analysis on how to improve life inside the Gaza Strip through architecture and design.
  • Palestinian Music in Exile: Voices of Resistance by Louis Brehony, is a historical and contemporary study of Palestinian musicianship in exile in the Middle East, spanning half a century in disparate locations. Forthcoming 21 November 2023 worldwide. Click here to watch the book trailer.
  • Occupied Lives: Maintaining Integrity in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in the West Bank by Nina Gren, is an ethnographic study of Palestinian refugees in Dheisheh refugee camp, just south of Bethlehem. It looks closely at the attempts of the camp inhabitants to survive and bounce back from the profound effects of political violence and Israeli military occupation on their daily lives.
  • Velvet by Huzama Habayeb and translated by Kay Heikkinen, is a novel of enormous power and great beauty, in which a Palestinian woman raised in a refugee camp learns to sew, which helps her to construct a life. Awarded the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.
  • Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Time of White Horses and The Lanterns of the King of Galilee, both translated by Nancy Roberts. These novels span Palestinian history from the eighteenth century to the collapse of Ottoman rule and the British Mandate in Palestine.

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