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Seeking Palestine | Anthology

Fifteen Palestinian writers reflect on their experiences of exile. Edited by Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh

“Palestine-in-exile,” says Rana Barakat, “is an idea, a love, a goal, a movement, a massacre, a march, a parade, a poem, a thesis, a novel and, yes, a commodity, as well as a people scattered, displaced, dispossessed and determined.”

How do Palestinians live, imagine and reflect on home and exile in this period of a stateless and transitory Palestine, a deeply contested and crisis-ridden national project, and a sharp escalation in Israeli state violence and accompanying Palestinian oppression? How can exile and home be written?

In this volume of new writing, fifteen innovative and outstanding Palestinian writers-essayists, poets, novelists, critics, artists and memoirists-respond with their reflections, experiences, memories and polemics. What is it like, in the words of Lila Abu-Lughod, to be “drafted into being Palestinian?” What happens when you take your American children – as Sharif Elmusa does – to the refugee camp where you were raised? And how can you convince, as Suad Amiry attempts to do, a weary airport official to continue searching for a code for a country that isn’t recognized?

Contributors probe the past through unconventional memories, reflecting on 1948 when it all began. But they are also deeply interested in beginnings, imagining, in the words of Mischa Hiller, “a Palestine that reflects who we are now and who we hope to become”. Their contributions-poignant, humorous, intimate, reflective, intensely political-make for an offering that is remarkable for the candor and grace with which it explores the many individual and collective experiences of waiting, living for, and seeking Palestine.

Contributors include: Lila Abu-Lughod, Susan Abulhawa, Suad Amiry, Rana Barakat, Mourid Barghouti, Beshara Doumani, Sharif S. Elmusa, Rema Hammami, Mischa Hiller, Emily Jacir, Penny Johnson, Fady Joudah, Jean Said Makdisi, Karma Nabulsi, Raeda Sa’adeh, Raja Shehadeh, Adania Shibli.

How can an essentially sad story give such pleasure? The answer is in these narratives: these stories, memoirs, poems are a pleasure and an education; personal, vivid, original, sometimes witty, always accomplished and always honest. They are a testimonial to the human spirit, and to the growing contribution of Palestine to literature

Ahdaf Soueif

Whereas writing on Palestine is often encumbered by the baggage of ideology, and writings from within Palestine are unfortunately few, this collection of essays frames itself as writing in search of Palestine, seeking less to represent a place than to capture its imaginations. Contributors include intellectuals, authors, and professionals, many of whom echo and acknowledge Edward Said’s famous reflections on exile. Environmental scholar and translator Sharif Elmusa combines poetry and prose to invoke a long-standing Arabic tradition, but he does so in English, complicating the effort. Lila Abu-Lughod shares somber recollections on the legacy of her father, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, a highly regarded statesman and political scientist. Other essays embrace the absurdity of the situation, including a relatively lighthearted piece by poet and memoirist Mourid Barghouti about an amusing taxi-ride-turned-crane-rescue. Throughout, the authors work to untether the hyphenated “nation-state,” embracing instead the future of a people. Since, as poet and physician Fady Joudah reflects, “what has not yet arrived has not yet been lost

Diego Báez, Booklist

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