Mornings in Jenin was one of my all-time favourite novels and made a huge impact on me when I read it. It was one of the most accessible explanations of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle that I had read. So I was most excited to find that Susan Abulhawa was coming to our Literary Festival and that she had a new book out. Shamefully that was last year and I have still not written my review.
The Barakas family is evicted from their home in village of Beit Daras in 1948 and travel with just portable luggage to a refugee camp outside Gaza.
"...She made her way in the village, walking through walls of fear. The air was heavy, almost unbreathable, and people moved in fitful motions, as if unsure that one leg would follow the other. Women hurried with bundles balanced on heads and children hoisted on hips, pausing occasionally to adjust each. Children struggled to keep pace with their elders, who pulled them by the arms. Bewilderment carved lines in every face that Nazmiyeh passed, and despite the noise and chaos around her, she thought she could hear heartbeats pounding on chest walls."
The strength of the women holds the family together across three generations, even beyond the borders into the US. Nazmiyeh, the matriarch is empowering in the face of extreme hardships and the love that young Nur has for her grandfather is deeply touching.
This novel tackles the after-effects of becoming a refugee; the trauma, the loss of pride, the poverty and the separated families, trying to make ends meet in a canvas and corrugated-iron city when you are used to living amongst your own fields and tending your own animals.
The author is the daughter of displaced Palestinians, so she writes from close to the source, using first-hand reminiscences.
The balance between the horror and pain versus the love and support makes this book a really special read. and I highly recommend it.