The Palestine Book Award shortlist was announced yesterday.
The annual prize, launched in 2012, seeks to promote and celebrate books written in English about Palestine. It is, equally, an attempt at encouraging more authors to talk about Palestine and the Palestinian Cause.
The shortlisted books are:
1. Balcony on the Moon, by Ibtisam Barakat
Above: Balcony on the Moon. (FSG Macmillan)
This memoir is a companion/sequel to Tasting the Sky (2007), this one, set in 1970s Palestine, follows the author from second grade through school. It is divided into five sections, each set in a different home. Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly both gave the book starred reviews, with the former saying the book “[is an] intense memoir [which] paints a dark picture of growing up in Israeli-occupied Palestine.”
2. The Oslo Accords, Edited by Mohammed Omer and Petter Bauck
Palestinian journalist Omer and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation senior conflict advisor Bauck write on the 1993 Oslo Accords, which saw Israel recognise the PLO as the representative of Palestinians and the PLO recognise Israel’s “right to exist.” This collection of essays discusses the agreement, what’s happened, and what went wrong.
3. Code Name Butterfly, by Ahlam Bsharat
Above: Code Name: Butterfly. (Neem Tree Press Ltd)
A young adult novel about Butterfly, a teenager grappling with big questions on a life further complicated by the Israeli occupation. The book, originally published in Arabic, has been translated into English by Nancy Roberts. The National liked the book, saying, “[Answers are] unclear. But this is how the book works: instead of giving us answers, it forces us into impossible situations. There, we must look around, just like Butterfly, and muddle through it ourselves.”
4. Gaza Under Hamas: From Islamic Democracy to Islamist Governance, by Bjora Brenner
A book written through hard-to-secure interviews with key political and security figures, Gaza Under Hamas explores day-to-day life in Gaza under Hamas’s regime, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the UN, and the US. The Middle East Monitor said the book “expounds upon the spectrum of misconceptions, strengths and flaws associated with [Hamas]. This approach provides a detailed assessment of Hamas in relation to Gaza and its unique circumstances, while dispelling mainstream manipulation, to which, as Brenner points out, academia has also contributed.”
5. The Way to the Spring, by Ben Ehrenreich
Above: The Way to the Spring. (Granta Publications)
Ehrenreich, who has written for outlets like The New York Times, makes his way to Palestine to talk to everyday people about their struggles and their suffering: people hounded by “settlers” who want to drive them from their land, checkpoints and “separation walls” and borders which split houses from houses. The book, “an argument by way of anecdote,” is a collection of “haunting, poignant and memorable stories [which] add up to a weighty contribution to the Palestinian side of the scales of history,” said The New York Times.
6. Drawing the Kafr Qassem Massacre, by Samia Halaby
In 1956, Israeli Border Police committed three massacres against Palestinians, killing hundreds. Israel has attempted to consign these attacks to history; Drawing the Kafr Qassem Massacre explores the story through interviews with survivors of one of these attacks. It is a documentary in the form of illustration, giving form to suffering.
7. The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories, by Ilan Pappe
Above: The Biggest Prison on Earth. (Oneworld Publications)
Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and The Forgotten Palestinians, turns his attention to the systematic destruction and annexation of the Occupied Territories, and how the Israeli “bureaucracy of evil” enables continued displaced, dispossession, and violation of human rights. “A grim, hard-hitting look at the nuts and bolts of Israeli occupation,” said Kirkus Reviews.
8. The Commander: Fawzi Al-Qawuqji and the fight for Arab Independence 1914-1948, by Laila Parsons
Above: The Commander. (Saqi Books)
Some saw him as a hero; others saw him as a duplicitous betrayer. Fawzi Al-Qawuqji fought wars, made daring escapes, and eventually led the Arab armies against Zionist forces in the War of 1948. Laila Parsons attempts to write a biography of the man as framed by the context of his time. The Electronic Intifada said the book was, “Well-researched, presenting and analyzing many sources on this essential period of Arab history which were not previously available in English, The Commander is a lively read that is not short of depth nor contemporary importance.”
9. On the Arab-Jew, Palestine, and Other Displacements, by Ella Shohat
Shohat has been writing on Palestine and Israel for decades. This book gathers some of her essays, which seek to abolish the European Jew vs. Arab binary that dictates so much of the narrative around the Palestine-Israeli conflict and provide a new perspective on a problem with no end in sight.
An evening with the shortlisted authors will occur at the P21 Gallery on November 23rd, chaired by Professor Eugene Rogan (St. Anthony’s College, Oxford).
The winners will be announced November 24th at the Hilton London Paddington Hotel.
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