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The Palestine/Israel conflict seems like it will be never ending. And anytime we are looking at heartbreak and fear and feeling powerless about it, one of the things we can do (in addition to finding tangible ways to help where possible) is to READ. Reading helps us to understand the world from new perspectives, and I can definitely say that reading some of these books has helped me understand Palestine in a completely new way. These books about Palestine run the gamut, from family novels that span generations to intimate memoirs. But all of them are set against the backdrop of conflict and diaspora.
I think when you read books about Palestine, you may not find what you expect. Yes, you will learn about so much tragedy. But you will also find so much heart and love for both home and family.
Fiction Books Set in Palestine
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Beginning before the Six-Day War of 1967, Salt Houses follows the generations of a single family as the are displaced from Palestine and then are displaced over and over again as conflict seems to follow them. This is a book with a lot of tragedy, as family members try to understand how to live and find their place in a complicated world. But it is also a book with so much love. It’s about family who has been together through so much, and I really loved it so much. For fans of literary and historical fiction.
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
Nahr has lived her life in displacement. The daughter of Palestinian refugees, she has led an unforgiving life, finding herself in Kuwait, Jordan, and Iraq before finally landing back in Palestine. The catch is, she writing this story from prison. But how did she end up there? For fans of literary fiction.
Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad
After her marriage falls apart, Sonia, an actress, returns to Palestine where her sister still lives. There, she finds herself pulled into a local production of Hamlet. This is a book about returning home, diaspora, Shakespeare, and family. For fans of literary fiction.
Mother of Strangers by Suad Amiry
In 1940s Jaffa, Subhi and Shams are two young teenagers on the brink of their lives in a bustling city. But then the city is attacked in 1948, and life will never be the same for them and their fellow Palestinians. This novel is based on a true story of two Palestinian teenagers, and is for fans of historical and literary fiction.
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
In 1948, the Abulhejos, a Palestinian family, are displaced to refugee camps. This multi-generational family story is full of love and heartbreak. The story of this family hoping to return home is told through the eyes of one female member of the family, Amal. For fans of historical fiction and family sagas.
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, Translated by Elisabeth Jaquette
In 1949, one year after the Nabka, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, a Palestinian teenager is raped and murdered by Israeli soldiers. Years later, a woman becomes obsessed with this case, wanting to uncover the truth of what happened and what this history means for the present. For fans of literary fiction and crime narratives.
The Book of Gaza: A City in Short Fiction Edited by Atef Abu Saif
In this anthology collection, a variety of Palestinian voices share short stories about life in Gaza. They reflect on loss, grief, and trauma while also containing love and hope. For fans of short stories and literary fiction.
Keep reading around the world with these books set in Rwanda!
Non-Fiction Books About Palestine
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Palestine is a non-fiction graphic novel about Palestine and the suffering that conflict has brought their communities. Sacco spent several months in Palestine researching, and here he gives us the perspective of a variety of Palestinians. Originally two volumes, this has now been published as one, and it is for fans of graphic novels.
Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
In this non-fiction graphic novel about Palestine, Sacco examines a lesser known incident in 1956 in which 111 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers. Weaving this into the more complicated history of Palestine and Israel, Sacco tells the story of a this complex conflict. For fans of graphic novels.
They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom by Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri
You may remember Ahed Tamimi from the news, when she was arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier who would not leave her front yard. But this memoir is about more than just that. It’s about her life growing up as an activist, about growing up with a father who was an activist, and about the larger history of Israel and Palestine. For fans of memoirs and stories about activism.
I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti, Translated by Ahdaf Soueif
After living in exile for 30 years, poet Mourid Barghouti returns to Palestine and reflects on how his memories compare to the current state of his homeland. For fans of memoir and reflective writing.
The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine by Ben Ehrenreich
In this memoir set in Palestine, Ehrenrich, a journalist, spends three years living with Palestinian families. Here, he tells the stories of his time there and of these families and how the decades-long conflict has impacted their lives. For fans of travel writing.
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 by Rashid Khalidi
If you want a fairly comprehensive history of Palestine, this may be the book for you. Khalidi is the great-great-nephew of a Jerusalem mayor who first sounded an alarm on occupation in 1899. Here, he shares the history of how the Palestinian people have been displaced through conflict, violence, and colonialism. For fans of history non-fiction.
Out of Place: A Memoir by Edward W. Said
In 1991, Said received a medical diagnosis that would limit his life. After this news, he decided to write a memoir about his homeland, about his memories of Palestine and his life in exile, and about trying to find his place in the world. For fans of memoirs and coming of age stories.
Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege by Amira Hass, Translated by Maxine Nunn
In 1993, Amira Hass went to Gaza to cover a story and ended up living there for an extended period of time. Here, she writes to bring the lives of everyday Palestinians to the page, from their hopes and dreams to their pains and grief as they have suffered so very much. For fans of journalistic non-fiction.
In the Presence of Absence by Mahmoud Darwish, Translated by Sinan Antoon
Celebrated Palestinian poet Marmoud Darwish wrote this book when he learned he would soon die. This is a lyrical tribute to life and death and Palestine and home. For fans of poetry.
In My Mother’s Footsteps: A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home by Mona Hajjar Halaby
In this memoir, Halaby travels to Palestine, the home of her family and a place she strongly identifies with despite only knowing if from her mother’s memories. While teaching conflict resolution at a local school, she explores the landmarks of her family’s history and eventually helps her mother make a return. For fans of memoir.
Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd
This is a collection of poetry that reflects on colonialism, exile, and the violence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The title of the book comes from Mohammed El-Kurd’s grandmother, Rifqa, who lived to be 103 years old and was always fighting for justice and for her home. This book is for poetry fans.
Children’s Books About Palestine
Homeland – My Father Dreams of Palestine by Hannah Moushabeck, Illustrated by Reem Madooh
In this autobiographical picture book, three sisters wait for their father to come home from work and tuck them into bed. Because when he does, they know they will get stories about his homeland: Palestine. And through these stories, they develop their own connection to a place they are from but cannot go to. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Sitti’s Olive Trees by Ndaa Hassan, Illustrated by Soumbal Qureshi
Reema loves watching her grandmother in the kitchen. One day, a drop of spilled olive oil prompts Sitti to tell Reema all about the olive harvest in Palestine, where Sitti gets her olive oil sent from each year. Recommended ages: 5 and up.
Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shahab Nye, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Mona visits her grandmother in Palestine, and although they can’t speak the same language, they develop their own ways of communicating. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
Baba, What Does My Name Mean? A Journey to Palestine by Rifk Ebeid, Illuatrated by Lamaa Jawhari
What Saamidah asks her father what her name means, he takes her on a rich imaginative journey through Palestine. This book touches on Palestinian cities, food, and traditions. Recommended ages: 6 and up.
Middle Grade and YA Books About Palestine
Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj, Illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa
Palestinian-American fifth grader, Farah, is excited about the possibility of going to the Magnet Academy with her best friend for sixth-grade. But when her younger brother starts being bullied at school, she wonders if it’s the right decision. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird and Sonia Nimr
Under military occupation in Palestine, two boys turn a piece of unoccupied land into a soccer field. But when curfew sets in, they must be careful. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
When Liyana moves from St. Louis to her family’s homeland of Palestine, she feels lost. But then she meets a new friend, Omer who helps her feel more at home. Only he is Jewish, and their friendship isn’t understood by their families. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
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