With the genocide happening in Palestine and all the media circus surrounding it, I have been coming across several resources sharing some of the best books about Palestine people should read to gain a better understanding of the situation. I wanted to take the moment to step away from today’s regular Top Ten Tuesday post to talk about this issue that matters so much to me.
And so, instead of following this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic, let’s talk about some of the best books about Palestine that can help you understand why this violence shouldn’t be labeled “Israel-Palestine conflict” and how exactly it started all those years ago.
Important Disclaimer: Not all of the books about Palestine mentioned in this list are memoirs or non-fiction or autobiography. Some of the books mentioned in this list are not even about the genocide in Palestine; rather they are speculative fiction and fantasy stories rooted in Palestinian folklore or written by Palestinian authors. This is intentional—as someone who always resorts to the SFF genre to make sense of the world around her, I believe in uplifting the voices of Palestinian authors who draw their inspiration from their culture and roots.
A searing portrait of Palestinian life and identity that is at once an exploration of Edward Said’s unclaimable past and a testimony to the lives of those living in exile.
In 1993, Amira Hass, a young Israeli reporter, drove to Gaza to cover a story-and stayed, the first journalist to live in the grim Palestinian enclave so feared and despised by most Israelis that, in the local idiom, “Go to Gaza” is another way to say “Go to hell.” Now, in a work of calm power and painful clarity, Hass reflects on what she has seen in the Gaza Strips’s gutted streets and destitute refugee camps.
At a time when a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis seems virtually unattainable, understanding the roots of their conflict is an essential step in restoring hope to the region. In The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi, one of the most respected historians and political observers of the Middle East, homes in on Palestinian politics and history.
In Search of Fatima is an intimate and powerful narrative, in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is presented, unusually, from the point of view of a Palestinian woman. A reflection of the author’s personal experiences of displacement, loss and nostalgia, it speaks also for the millions of people all over the world whose lives are forever suspended between the old and the new.
Light in Gaza is a seminal, moving and wide-ranging anthology of Palestinian writers and artists. It constitutes a collective effort to organize and center 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.
Young love, meddling relatives, heart-to-hearts with friends real and imagined – Philistia’s world is that of an ordinary university student, except that in occupied Palestine, and when your father is in indefinite detention, nothing is straightforward. Philistia is closest to her childhood, and to her late grandmother and her imprisoned father, when she’s at her part-time job washing women’s bodies at the ancient Ottoman hammam in Nablus, the West Bank.
A midwife and corpse washer in her time, Grandma Zahia taught Philistia the ritual ablutions and the secrets of the body: the secrets of life and death. On the brink of adulthood, Philistia embarks on a journey through her country’s history – a magical journey and one of loss and centuries of occupation. As trees are uprooted around her, Philistia searches for a place of refuge, a place where she can plant a memory for the ones she’s lost.
There was…and there was not.
In these stories inspired by Palestinian folklore, a daughter of darkness, a djinn, pours out her soul to the moon. Time travelers discover that the battle of Meggido was not quite what they expected. A prince meets his soulmate in the storyteller who can tell stories that are nothing but lies.
A Palestinian activist jailed at sixteen after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers illuminates the daily struggles of life under occupation in this moving, deeply personal memoir.
Ahed Tamimi is a world-renowned Palestinian activist, born and raised in the small West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, which became a center of the resistance to Israeli occupation when an illegal, Jewish-only settlement blocked off its community spring. Tamimi came of age participating in nonviolent demonstrations against this action and the occupation at large. Her global renown reached an apex in December 2017, when, at sixteen years old, she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier who refused to leave her front yard. The video went viral, and Tamimi was arrested.
But this is not just a story of activism or imprisonment. It is the human-scale story of an occupation that has riveted the world and shaped global politics, from a girl who grew up in the middle of it . Tamimi’s father was born in 1967, the year that Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and he grew up immersed in the resistance movement. One of Tamimi’s earliest memories is visiting him in prison, poking her toddler fingers through the fence to touch his hand. She herself would spend her seventeenth birthday behind bars. Living through this greatest test and heightened attacks on her village, Tamimi felt her resolve only deepen, in tension with her attempts to live the normal life of a daughter, sibling, friend, and student.
An essential addition to an important conversation, They Called Me a Lioness shows us what is at stake in this struggle and offers a fresh vision for resistance. With their unflinching, riveting storytelling, Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri shine a light on the humanity not just in occupied Palestine but also in the unsung lives of people struggling for freedom around the world.
Twelve-year-old Liam Finley doesn’t expect anything good when he is forced to move from Dublin to his stepfather’s large country house on the edge of the wild woods. But after the first night there, Liam abandons his fears of dreary boredom when he discovers that fairy tales haunt his new home. Has he truly discovered a dragon egg?
The house’s old blind gardener Michael Moran claims to know Liam’s secret destiny, which lies in an enchanted Otherworld. He says Liam is the next Guardian of the Gold Breathers, a champion of dragons.
Time is not on Liam’s side. Can he complete his three tasks to prove himself as Guardian before the paths close between his world and the Guardian’s land? Liam wants to believe the mysterious tales of Michael, but should he instead seek shelter in the practical kindness of Hannah, the housekeeper who calls Michael’s stories “rubbish”? Liam’s heart tells him to trust the things of magic, but it’s the humans he can’t be sure about.
What if all the Palestinians in Israel simply disappeared one day? What would happen next? How would Israelis react? These unsettling questions are posed in Azem’s powerfully imaginative novel. Set in contemporary Tel Aviv forty eight hours after Israelis discover all their Palestinian neighbors have vanished, the story unfolds through alternating narrators, Alaa, a young Palestinian man who converses with his dead grandmother in the journal he left behind when he disappeared, and his Jewish neighbor, Ariel, a journalist struggling to understand the traumatic event.
Through these perspectives, the novel stages a confrontation between two memories. Ariel is a liberal Zionist who is critical of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but nevertheless believes in Israel’s project and its national myth. Alaa is haunted by his grandmother’s memories of being displaced from Jaffa and becoming a refugee in her homeland. Ariel’s search for clues to the secret of the collective disappearance and his reaction to it intimately reveal the fissures at the heart of the Palestinian question.
I hope you give these above books about Palestine a chance and truly take a moment to learn about why so many lives are being lost so senselessly, and why the world seems to be so divided when they could instead come together to save innocent children. The age-old cliche has always been true: books open worlds, and I hope these books about Palestine shed light on about devastation that is happening in a far-away corner of our world right now.