The publishing industry has a history of being racist toward Arab and Palestinian writers, which should not be spared from the discourse surrounding Palestine and Israeli forces. In light of recent events regarding Hamas’ attack on the Israeli occupation, Palestinians are being condemned for their resistance against the violent occupation they’ve been facing for decades. The narrative being sold to the masses in mainstream media paints the picture of Palestinians being terrorists. Palestinians are being dehumanized and reduced to barbaric animals. This type of rhetoric is not new; it is rooted in white supremacy.
As an avid reader, I have a Bookstagram where I follow the accounts of various publishing companies and their imprints as well as bookstores across the United States and, mostly, Palestinian writers. Over the past week, many publishers, authors, and bookstores have come forward with their statements on what’s happening with Palestine and Israel. Across social media, people have been posting their “stance” on the issue. What I saw was an overwhelming amount of authors openly support the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and it is absolutely heartbreaking and rage-inducing. Publishers are silent, showcasing their stance in doing so.
Now more than ever, it is crucial to support the narratives of Palestinians; to amplify their voices and experiences amidst the suffering of their people on stolen land and in remembrance of their ancestors; and to be in solidarity with them in their fight for liberation.
Palestine has been the birthplace of incredible writers who have contributed to the fight for Palestine’s liberation through literature that pays homage to their identity, ancestry, culture, and resistance.
Here are 20 key Palestinian writers to keep in your TBR as you educate yourself more on the deep history of Palestine:
“Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan
“Salt Houses” is a multigenerational saga following a Palestinian family and their history with grief, displacement, love, and survival. This novel touches on how much of our identity is tied to home and the role that war, loss, and pain play in that.
“Minor Detail” by Adania Shibli
“Minor Detail” begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba – the catastrophe that led to the displacement and expulsion of more than 700,000 people – and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers capture and rape a young Palestinian woman, and kill and bury her in the sand. Many years later, a woman in Ramallah becomes fascinated to the point of obsession with this ‘minor detail’ of history.
“Against the Loveless World” by Susan Abulhawa
“Against the Loveless World” spotlights the story of Nahr, a young Palestinian woman seeking a better life for her family as she travels throughout the Middle East as a refugee. After moving from one place to another, she finds herself in Palestine, where she builds her life under Israeli occupation.
“You Exist Too Much” by Zaina Arafat
“You Exist Too Much” follows the life of a young bisexual Palestinian-American woman struggling to belong and live an authentic life amidst the cultural, religious, and sexual components of her identity. The novel is told in the form of vignettes that go back and forth between the U.S. and the Middle East.
“The Beauty of Your Face” by Sahar Mustafah
In “The Beauty of Your Face,” Ataf Rahman, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of an Islamic school in the Chicago suburbs who comes face-to-face with a school shooter. While the chaos ensues, Ataf is lost in her memories reflecting on her faith, family, hopes, and identity.
“Enter Ghost” by Isabella Hammad
After years away from her family’s homeland, and dealing with a failed marriage, actress Sonia Nasir returns to Haifa to visit her older sister Haneen. This is her first trip back since the death of their grandparents and on her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile and deep-rooted as well. “Enter Ghost” is a novel that takes place in present-day Palestine and is a story exploring diaspora, displacement, and the connection to be found in family and shared resistance in a life under occupation.
“Mother of Strangers” by Suad Amiry
“Mother of Strangers“ is set in Jaffa in the years between 1947 and 1951 and based on a true story during the beginning of the destruction of Palestine and displacement of its people. Mother of Strangers follows the daily lives of Subhi, a fifteen-year-old mechanic, and Shams, the thirteen-year-old student he hopes to marry one day. Once the bombing of the city begins in 1948, Jaffa becomes unrecognizable, with neighborhoods flattened, families removed from their homes and separated, and those who remain in constant danger of arrest and incarceration. Subhi and Shams will never see each other again.
“A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum
“A Woman Is No Man” explores the story of three generations of Palestinian-American women struggling to express their inner voice against the shackles of cultural expectations and the violence occurring within their community.
“Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa
“Mornings in Jenin” is a multi-generational story about the Abulhejos, a Palestinian family that has been forcibly removed from their olive-farming village of Ein Hod and displaced to live in the Jenin refugee camp amidst the Nakba of 1948. This is a novel of family, identity, friendship, love, displacement, survival, and hope.
“Wild Thorns” by Sahar Khalifeh
First published in Palestine in 1976, “Wild Thorns” was the first Arab novel to offer a glimpse of everyday life under Israeli occupation. “Wild Thorns” follows Usama, a young Palestinian who returns to his homeland after several years working in the Gulf. Now working as 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 people have adjusted to life under military control. Despite this, Usama sets out to accomplish his objective with disastrous consequences.
“Behind You Is The Sea” by Susan Muaddi Dharaj
“Behind You Is the Sea“ brings us into the homes and lives of three main families – the Baladis, the Salamehs, and the Ammars – Palestinian immigrants who’ve all found a different welcome in America. “Behind You Is the Sea” touches on the stereotypes about Palestinians and shifts perspectives to showcase the complexities that lie within Palestinian culture and identity.
“They Fell Like Stars from the Sky and Other Stories” by Sheikha Helawy
“They Fell Like Stars from the Sky and Other Stories” is a collection of 18 illustrated short stories celebrating the courage, resilience, tragedies, and triumphs of Bedouin and Palestinian women and girls.
“The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History on Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017” by Rashid Khalidi
“The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” is a landmark history of one hundred years of war waged against the Palestinians told through pivotal events and family history and written by Rashid Khalidi, an American historian of the Middle East.
“The Question of Palestine” by Edward W. Said
“The Question of Palestine” is the first book to make Palestine the subject of a serious debate — one that remains in the present society. As a Palestinian by birth, Edward W. Said traces the collided history between two groups in the Middle East and its repercussions in the lives of both the occupier and the occupied, as well as the role of the West.
“I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti
Barred from his homeland after the 1967 Six-Day War, poet Mourid Barghouti spent thirty years in exile. “I Saw Ramallah” depicts Barghouti as he returns home for the first time since the Israeli occupation and sifts through memories of old Palestine as they come up against what he now encounters as the “idea of Palestine.”
“We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance” by Linda Sarsour
Linda Sarsour, co-organizer of the Women’s March, shares in her memoir “We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders” how growing up as a Palestinian Muslim American feminist influenced her to become an activist on behalf of marginalized communities across the globe.
“Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine” by Ibtisam Barakat
In her memoir, “Balcony on the Moon,” Palestinian author Ibtisam Barakat touches on coming of age against a backdrop of political turmoil in the Middle East. She speaks about pursuing her dreams of being a writer and shows how she found inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and encouragement from those around her.
“Rifqa” by Mohammed El-Kurd
“Rifqa” is Palestinian poet Mohammed El-Kurd’s ode to his late grandmother, and to the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
“Dear God. Dear Bones. Dear Yellow” by Noor Hindi
In “Dear God. Dear Bones. Dear Yellow,” Noor Hindi explores and interrogates colonialism, religion, patriarchy, and the complex intersections of her identity.
“In the Presence of Absence” by Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and author who was regarded as Palestine’s national poet. In this poetry collection called “In the Presence of Absence,” Darwish writes on love, longing, Palestine, history, friendship, family, and the ongoing conversation between life and death.
Reading is a radical act. Reading gives us the ability to understand society through various lenses and perceptions. It provides the opportunity to learn and educate oneself on history and connect with others to create change. Censorship is a response to its radicalness as it poses a threat to those who seek liberation.
Palestinian literature stands as evidence of a people that has endured collective violence, displacement, trauma, pain, and hope. Their stories are written by phenomenal Palestinian writers for the world to see that Palestine exists and its people are resilient.
Share Palestinian narratives and let Palestinian voices be heard! They’ve been neglected for far too long.