By Samah Sabawi
I had the honor of receiving an advance copy of the book Gaza Writes Back: a collection of Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, edited by Refaat Alareer. I found it to be a confronting, bold and intriguing book that takes us up close and personal into the minds of a young articulate Palestinian generation born stateless, under occupation and growing into adulthood under siege in one of the world’s most oppressed and dangerous environments.
This is a generation that is physically confined within Israel’s walls and emotionally scarred by Israel’s relentless bombings and incursions. Though the stories in the book are Palestinian, Israel’s presence is felt on every page. In fact, a few writers have even tried to enter the minds of Israeli soldiers by creating Israeli characters and trying to imagine how they think and how deeply they may regret their actions. It is as if reducing the IDF to human size, imagining them capable of fear, lament and guilt can help the writers overcome their own fear of the ‘other’.
In this book, the writers expresses anger at the uncertainty of life while at the same time they continue to cling to faith and hope. But make no mistake about it, unlike other works that romanticize Palestinian steadfastness or ‘summod’, this book intimately reveals a simple truth; steadfastness is not a deliberate choice or a romantic defiant act of resistance, it is simply a human instinct to survive.
The overwhelming voices of young female writers and their refined eloquence and capacity to express dissent not only challenges our stereotypical perception of Palestinians and women in Gaza in particular, but it also challenges the norms within Palestinian society itself. One can’t help but contrast this with the lack of young female presence in Palestinian official political circles.
Gaza Writes Back is a promise of a change in societal norms and a positive sign of what is to come. Despite the horror, the frustration, the physical and emotional scars, the voices of Gaza Writes Back have not given up on their ambitions and have not resigned their dreams for a better future.
Please note the book won’t be ready for shipping to readers till early January, however interested readers worldwide can place a pre-order at the Just World Books website and get free shipping for orders placed before Dec 31.