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"Starting symbolically on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, #ReadPalestine week encouraged people around the world to read fiction and poetry by Palestinian and Palestinian diaspora authors, nonfiction about Palestinian history, politics, arts, culture, and life, as well as books about organising, resistance, and solidarity for a Free Palestine."
In case you missed it, from 29th November to 5th December 2023, Publishers for Palestine, a “global collective of publishers and others who work in publishing around the world, who stand for justice, freedom of expression, and the power of the written word”, ran #ReadPalestine week.
Starting symbolically on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, #ReadPalestine week encouraged people around the world to read fiction and poetry by Palestinian and Palestinian diaspora authors, nonfiction about Palestinian history, politics, arts, culture, and life, as well as books about organising, resistance, and solidarity for a Free Palestine.
To encourage the spread of #ReadPalestine, signatories of the Publishers for Palestine letter of solidarity also organised a Free Palestine Reading List, which saw participating publishers offer one of their e-book titles for free download for the whole week. More than thirty books were added to the list in nine languages, including a half-dozen award winners.
Readers could also share their favourite Palestine books on social media, or quote from their favourite authors, and make learning about Palestine an act of solidarity, using the hashtags #ReadPalestine, #LirelaPalestine, #اقرأ_فلسطين, and more. Participating independent bookstores and libraries were invited to join by creating Read Palestine displays, social media posts, and other forms of creative solidarity.
Even though #ReadPalestine week has ended, these books are still available to purchase and you can still support their authors. Here’s a selection of 12 great reads from Publishers for Palestine’s Free Palestine Reading List:
1) Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear, by Mosab Abu Toha. Available at City Lights Books
“In this poetry debut, Mosab Abu Toha writes about his life under siege in Gaza, first as a child, and then as a young father. A survivor of four brutal military attacks, he bears witness to a grinding cycle of destruction and assault, and yet, his poetry is inspired by a profound humanity.
These poems emerge directly from the experience of growing up and living in constant lockdown, and often under direct attack. Like Gaza itself, they are filled with rubble and the ever-present menace of surveillance drones policing a people unwelcome in their own land, and they are also suffused with the smell of tea, roses in bloom, and the view of the sea at sunset. Children are born, families continue traditions, students attend university, and libraries rise from the ruins as Palestinians go on about their lives, creating beauty and finding new ways to survive.”
2) Wild Thorns, by Sahar Khalifeh. Available at Saqi Books
“A young Palestinian named Usama returns to his homeland after several years working in the Gulf. Now an operative in the resistance movement, his mission is to blow up buses transporting Palestinian workers into Israel.
But Palestine and its people are not as Usama remembered them. He is shocked to discover that many of his fellow countrymen have adjusted to life under military control. Despite mounting unease, Usama sets out to accomplish his objective … with disastrous consequences.”
3) The Drone Eats With Me, by Atef Abu Saif, Available at Comma Press
“On 7 July 2014, in an apparent response to the murder of three teenagers, Israel launched a major offensive against the Gaza Strip, lasting 51 days, killing 2145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injuring over 11,000, and demolishing 17,200 homes. The global outcry at this collective punishment of an already persecuted people was followed by widespread astonishment at the pro-Israeli bias of Western media coverage. The usual news machine rolled up, and the same distressing images and entrenched political rhetoric were broadcast, yet almost nothing was reported of the on-going lives of ordinary Gazans – the real victims of the war.
One of the few voices to make it out was that of Atef Abu Saif, a writer and teacher from Jabalia Refugee Camp, whose eye-witness accounts (published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and elsewhere) offered a rare window into the conflict for Western readers. Here, Atef’s complete diaries of the war allow us to witness the full extent of last summer’s atrocities from the most humble of perspectives: that of a young father, fearing for his family’s safety, trying to stay sane in an insanely one-sided war.”
4) A Party For Thaera: Palestinian Women Write Life In Prison, ed. Haifa Zangana. Available at Women Unlimited
“In a first, nine politically-diverse women, former Palestinian political prisoners, sat around a table in a small room in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, to share their stories of incarceration. These non-writers learnt to express the reality of their time in prison, of the separation from their children, of the endless struggles against Israeli occupation, to produce heartfelt narratives that go beyond simply recalling the details of their sentence or revisiting their trauma. Instead, this unique volume transforms their experiences into an expression of the self, giving readers an ‘exceptional’ insight into an almost unknown women’s world, of life and love behind bars and beyond.”
5) Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire, edited by Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze. Available at Haymarket Books
“Light in Gaza is a seminal, moving and wide-ranging anthology of Palestinian writers and artists. It constitutes a collective effort to organise and centre Palestinian voices in the ongoing struggle. As political discourse shifts toward futurism as a means of reimagining a better way of living, beyond the violence and limitations of colonialism, Light in Gaza is an urgent and powerful intervention into an important political moment.”
6) Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, by Phyllis Bennis. Available at Interlink Books
“With straightforward language, Phyllis Bennis, long-time analyst of the region, answers basic questions about Israel and Israelis, Palestine and Palestinians, the US and the Middle East, Zionism and anti-Semitism; about complex issues ranging from the Oslo peace process to the election of Hamas. Together her answers provide a comprehensive understanding of the longstanding Palestinian–Israeli conflict.
Sections include: Background; Israel–Palestine in the 21st Century; The Other Players: The Role of the US, the UN, the Arab States, and Europe; The History of the Conflict; The Future.”
7) Voices of the Nakba: A Living History of Palestine, edited by Diana Allan. Available at Pluto Press
“During the 1948 war more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were violently expelled from their homes by Zionist militias. The legacy of the Nakba – which translates to ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’ – lays bare the violence of the ongoing Palestinian plight.
Voices of the Nakba collects the stories of first-generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, documenting a watershed moment in the history of the modern Middle East through the voices of the people who lived through it.
The interviews, with commentary from leading scholars of Palestine and the Middle East, offer a vivid journey into the history, politics and culture of Palestine, defining Palestinian popular memory on its own terms in all its plurality and complexity.”
8) Mental Health and Human Rights in Palestine, by Wasseem El Sarraj. Available at Daraja Press
“This is a biography of the life of Dr Eyad El Sarraj, Gaza’s pioneering psychiatrist and founder of the Gaza Community Mental Healthcare Programme, written by his son, Wasseem El Sarraj. It is also a history of Palestine with a focus on Gaza. Eyad’s life was intimately intertwined with Palestine’s struggles so his choices and reactions reflected many of the major historical moments of the last 70 years. The book is an effort to provide a perspective on how the forces around him impacted his life, and how he took control of what he could achieve in an intractable situation. The book is interspersed with Wasseem’s own reflections as a mixed-race Palestinian, and as someone who has lived under occupation in Gaza.”
9) Driving in Palestine, by Rehab Nazzal. Available at Fernwood Publishing
“Driving in Palestine is a research-creation project by acclaimed artist Rehab Nazzal, who explores the visible indices of the politics of mobility that she encountered first-hand while traversing the occupied West Bank between 2010 and 2020. This photography book consists of 160 black and white photographs, hand-drawn maps and critical essays in Arabic and English by Palestinian and Canadian scholars and artists.
The photographs were all captured from moving vehicles on the roads of the West Bank. They focus on Israel’s architecture of movement restrictions and surveillance structures that proliferate in the West Bank, including the Apartheid Wall, segregation walls surrounding illegal colonies, gates, fences, watchtowers, roadblocks and military checkpoints among other obstacles to freedom of movement.”
10) Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation, edited by Mateo Hoke and Cate Malek. Available at Verso Books
“For more than six decades, Israel and Palestine have been the centre of one of the world’s most widely reported yet least understood human rights crises. In Palestine Speaks men and women from the West Bank and Gaza describe in their own words how their lives have been shaped by the conflict. This includes eyewitness accounts of the most recent attacks on Gaza in 2014. The collection includes Ebtihaj, whose son, born during the first intifada, was killed by Israeli soldiers during a night raid almost twenty years later. Nader, a professional marathon runner from the Gaza Strip who is determined to pursue his dream of competing in international races despite countless challenges, including severe travel restrictions and a lack of resources to help him train.”
11) Take Care of Your Self: The Art and Cultures of Care and Liberation, by Sundus Abdul Hadi. Available at Common Notions
“In Take Care of Your Self, Sundus Abdul Hadi turns a critical and inventive eye to the notion of care and how it relates to social justice. In contrast to the billion-dollar industry of self-care, Abdul Hadi identifies care as a necessary practice—rooted in self, community, and the world—in the collective process of decolonisation, empowerment, and liberation.
Abdul Hadi explores the role of art in building regenerative narratives to confront and undo systemic oppression and trauma. Weaving in the work of visionary transcultural artists who engage the liberatory intersections of struggle and care, Abdul Hadi centres the voices of those most-often relegated to the margins and emphasises the importance of creating brave spaces for their stories and art. The transformative power of care exists in these spaces, building a foundation for a world in desperate need of healing and change.”
12) The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media, by Greg Shupak. Available at OR Books
“The Wrong Story lays bare the flaws in the way large media organisations present the Palestine–Israel issue. It points out major fallacies in the fundamental conceptions that underpin their coverage, namely that Palestinians and Israelis are both victims to comparable extents and are equally responsible for the failure to find a solution; that the problem is “extremists,” often religiously-motivated ones, who need to be sidelined in favour of “moderates”; and that Israel’s uses of force are typically justifiable acts of self-defence.
Weaving together the existing literature with new insights, Shupak offers an up-to-date and tightly focused guide that exposes the distorted way these issues are presented and why each is misguided.”
Source credit: Publishers for Palestine. Publishers for Palestine is a global solidarity collective of more than 400 publishers who stand for justice, freedom of expression, and the power of the written word in solidarity with the people of Palestine. For more reads, resources and to read their statement of solidarity with Palestine, visit https://publishersforpalestine.org/