From memoirs to historical fiction to essays to poetry, I’m sharing fifteen books by Palestinian and Palestinian-American authors to—first—spread awareness of the current (though not recent) crisis of Israel’s apartheid against Palestine and—second—share works that celebrate the culture and joy and lives of Palestinians as well.
What can you do to help?
Before you add these books to your tbr, here are some action items you can take to support Palestine:
- Email your senators and representatives—which takes just a minute with Resistbot.
- Click to donate every day.
- Donate to legitimate organizations.
- Protest if you’re able.
- Continue to educate yourself and amplify Palestinian activists.
No matter how much or how little we know (though, again, education is important), we can loudly condemn the ethnic cleansing, systemic oppression, and inhumane violence of Israel against Palestine.
1. The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017 by Rashid Khalidi
Published: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Genre: nonfiction history
A landmark history of one hundred years of war waged against the Palestinians from the foremost US historian of the Middle East, told through pivotal events and family history.
In 1899, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, alarmed by the Zionist call to create a Jewish national home in Palestine, wrote a letter aimed at Theodore Herzl: the country had an indigenous people who would not easily accept their own displacement. He warned of the perils ahead, ending his note, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.” Thus Rashid Khalidi, al-Khalidi’s great-great-nephew, begins this sweeping history, the first general account of the conflict told from an explicitly Palestinian perspective.
Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival materials and the reports of generations of family members – mayors, judges, scholars, diplomats, and journalists – The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine upends accepted interpretations of the conflict, which tend, at best, to describe a tragic clash between two peoples with claims to the same territory. Instead, Khalidi traces a hundred years of colonial war on the Palestinians, waged first by the Zionist movement and then Israel, but backed by Britain and the United States, the great powers of the age. He highlights the key episodes in this colonial campaign, from the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to the endless and futile peace process.
Original, authoritative, and important, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine is not a chronicle of victimization, nor does it whitewash the mistakes of Palestinian leaders or deny the emergence of national movements on both sides. In reevaluating the forces arrayed against the Palestinians, it offers an illuminating new view of a conflict that continues to this day.
2. The Book of Gaza: A City in Short Fiction (Reading the City: A City in Short Fiction) by Atef Abu Saif (Editor) and Asma al Ghul (Editor)
Published: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Comma Press
Genre: fiction short stories
Bringing together a dozen of Palestine’s greatest modern prose writers, this unique anthology sets contemporary stories against the backdrop of one of the world’s most talked-about cities, presenting them in English translation for the first time. Together, these stories will enable English-speaking readers to go beyond the global media coverage and enter into the daily life of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what is effectively the world’s largest prison. The authors range from highly acclaimed writers to exciting new voices in Arabic literature, including the “Father of the Palestinian” short story, Zaki Al Ela, and a new generation of young women bloggers and activists, such as Mona Abu Sharikhm, Dawlat Al Masri, and Najla Attalah.
3. Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation by Michael Chabon, etc.
Published: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: nonfiction essays
A groundbreaking collection of essays by celebrated international writers bears witness to the human cost of fifty years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In Kingdom of Olives and Ash, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, two of today’s most renowned novelists and essayists, have teamed up with the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence—an organization comprised of former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied territories and saw firsthand the injustice there—and a host of illustrious writers to tell the stories of the people on the ground in the contested territories.
Kingdom of Olives and Ash includes contributions from several of today’s most esteemed storytellers including: Colum McCann, Jacqueline Woodson, Colm Toibin, Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Hari Kunzru, Raja Shehadeh, Mario Vargas Llosa and Assaf Gavron, as well as from editors Chabon and Waldman. Through these incisive, perceptive, and poignant essays, readers will gain unique insight into the narratives behind the litany of grim destruction broadcasted nightly on the news, as well as deeper understanding of the conflict as experienced by the people who live in the occupied territories. Together, these stories stand witness to the human cost of the occupation.
4. This is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature by Ahdaf Soueif (Editor), etc.
Published: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Nonfiction essays
The Palestine Festival of Literature was established in 2008 by authors Ahdaf Soueif, Brigid Keenan, and Omar Robert Hamilton. Bringing writers to the nation from all corners of the globe, it aimed to break the cultural siege imposed by the Israeli military occupation, to strengthen artistic links with the rest of the world, and to reaffirm, in the words of Edward Said, “the power of culture over the culture of power.”
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of PalFest, Annexe is a collection of essays, poems, and sketches from some of the world’s most distinguished artists, responding to their experiences at this unique festival. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, their gathered work is a testament to the power of literature to promote solidarity and hope in the most desperate of situations.
5. Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine by Noura Erakat
Published: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Genre: nonfiction history
Justice in the Question of Palestine is often framed as a question of law. Yet none of the Israel-Palestinian conflict’s most vexing challenges have been resolved by judicial intervention. Occupation law has failed to stem Israel’s settlement enterprise. Laws of war have permitted killing and destruction during Israel’s military offensives in the Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accord’s two-state solution is now dead letter.
Justice for Some offers a new approach to understanding the Palestinian struggle for freedom, told through the power and control of international law. Focusing on key junctures–from the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to present-day wars in Gaza–Noura Erakat shows how the strategic deployment of law has shaped current conditions. Over the past century, the law has done more to advance Israel’s interests than the Palestinians’. But, Erakat argues, this outcome was never inevitable.
Law is politics, and its meaning and application depend on the political intervention of states and people alike. Within the law, change is possible. International law can serve the cause of freedom when it is mobilized in support of a political movement. Presenting the promise and risk of international law, Justice for Some calls for renewed action and attention to the Question of Palestine.
Published: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Riverhead Books
A frank and entertaining memoir, from the daughter of Edward Said, about growing up second-generation Arab American and struggling with that identity.
The daughter of a prominent Palestinian father and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. The fact that her father was the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said only made things more complicated. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but in Said’s mind she grew up first as a WASP, having been baptized Episcopalian in Boston and attending the wealthy Upper East Side girls’ school Chapin, then as a teenage Jew, essentially denying her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of all this self-hatred began to threaten her health.
As she grew older, making increased visits to Palestine and Beirut, Said’s worldview shifted. The attacks on the World Trade Center, and some of the ways in which Americans responded, finally made it impossible for Said to continue to pick and choose her identity, forcing her to see herself and her passions more clearly. Today, she has become an important voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.
7. Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé
Published: November 9, 2010
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Genre: nonfiction politics
“Chomsky is a global phenomenon . . . he may be the most widely read American voice on foreign policy on the planet.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Ilan Pappe is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.” — John Pilger
Described by a UN fact-finding mission as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population,” Israel’s Operation Cast Lead thrust the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip into the center of the debate about the Israel/Palestine conflict.
In “Gaza in Crisis,” Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, two of the issue’s most insightful and prominent critical voices, survey the fallout from Israel’s conduct in Gaza and place it into the context of Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestine.
8. Palestine on a Plate: Memories From My Mother’s Kitchen by Joudie Kalla
Published: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Jacqui Small
Genre: cookbook, memoir
While many countries in the Middle East have dishes in common, each country has its own interpretation and style, Palestine on a Plate showcases the wide-ranging, vibrant and truly delicious dishes of this country and introduces the reader to traditional Palestinian methods, cooking styles and flavours. Furthermore it presents recipes from the Palestinian home, rather than those traditionally found in restaurants.
The recipes found in Palestine on a Plate, although less fatty, less fussy and less time-consuming to prepare than their original incarnations, are largely unchanged since the author’s grandmothers’ days. The book has many photographs.
9. Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
Published: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: historical fiction
A sweeping and lyrical novel that follows a young Palestinian refugee as she slowly becomes radicalized while searching for a better life for her family throughout the Middle East, for readers of international literary bestsellers including Washington Black, My Sister, The Serial Killer, and Her Body and Other Parties.
As Nahr sits, locked away in solitary confinement, she spends her days reflecting on the dramatic events that landed her in prison in a country she barely knows. Born in Kuwait in the 70s to Palestinian refugees, she dreamed of falling in love with the perfect man, raising children, and possibly opening her own beauty salon. Instead, the man she thinks she loves jilts her after a brief marriage, her family teeters on the brink of poverty, she’s forced to prostitute herself, and the US invasion of Iraq makes her a refugee, as her parents had been. After trekking through another temporary home in Jordan, she lands in Palestine, where she finally makes a home, falls in love, and her destiny unfolds under Israeli occupation.
10. The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary by Atef Abu Saif
Published: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Beacon Press
An ordinary Gazan’s chronicle of the struggle to survive during Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza.
The fifty-day Israel-Gaza conflict that began in early July of 2014 left over 2,100 people dead. The overwhelming majority of the dead were Palestinians, including some 500 children. Another 13,000-odd Palestinians were wounded, and 17,200 homes demolished. These statistics are sadly familiar, as is the political rhetoric from Israeli and Palestinian authorities alike.
What is less familiar, however, is a sense of the ordinary Gazan society that war lays to waste.
One of the few voices to make it out of Gaza was that of Atef Abu Saif, a writer and teacher from Jabalia refugee camp, whose eyewitness accounts (published in the Guardian, New York Times, and elsewhere) offered a rare window into the conflict for Western readers. Here, Abu Saif’s complete diaries of the war allow us to witness the events of 2014 from the perspective of a young father, fearing for his family’s safety. In The Drone Eats with Me, Abu Saif brings readers an intimate glimpse of life during wartime, as he, his wife, and his two young children attempt to live their lives with a sense of normalcy, in spite of the ever-present danger and carnage that is swallowing the place they call home.
11. Men in the Sun by Ghassan Kanafani
Published: October 9, 1978
Publisher: Heinemann Educ.
Genre: historical fiction short stories
This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani includes the stunning novella Men in the Sun (1962), the basis of the film The Deceived. In the unsparing clarity of his writing, Kanafani offers the reader a gritty look at the agonized world of Palestine and the adjoining Middle East.
12. My Voice Sought the Wind by Susan Abulhawa
Published: November 1, 2013
Publisher: Just World Books
“I wrote poetry before I wrote anything else,” says Susan Abulhawa, esteemed Palestinian-American author and social activist, in the introduction to her first book of poems, My Voice Sought the Wind. This new work followed her highly acclaimed novel, Mornings in Jenin, which has been translated into 32 languages since it was published in 2010.
My Voice Sought the Wind represents five years of Abulhawa’s best poems on the timeless themes of love, loss, identity, and family, brought to life through her vivid observations and intimate personal reflections. She writes from her own experience, with a style that is romantic, but tinged with disillusionment, often a bit sad and always introspective.
13. The Lady of Tel Aviv by Raba’i al-Madhoun
Genre: historical fiction
Wail Dahman is going home. Returning to Gaza after nearly four decades in exile, he looks forward to embracing his mother and reconnecting with the people and place he once left behind.
Boarding the flight from London, Wald’s life intersects with that of Dana, an Israeli actress, on her way back to Tel Aviv. As the night sky hurtles past, what each confides and conceals will expose the chasm between them in the land they both call home.
The Lady from Tel Aviv is a powerful and poetic story of love, loss and belonging.
14. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Published: February 15, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: historical fiction
A heart-wrenching, powerfully written novel that could do for Palestine what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan.
Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.
The very precariousness of existence in the camps quickens life itself. Amal, the patriarch’s bright granddaughter, feels this with certainty when she discovers the joys of young friendship and first love and especially when she loses her adored father, who read to her daily as a young girl in the quiet of the early dawn. Through Amal we get the stories of her twin brothers, one who is kidnapped by an Israeli soldier and raised Jewish; the other who sacrifices everything for the Palestinian cause. Amal’s own dramatic story threads between the major Palestinian-Israeli clashes of three decades; it is one of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, and parenthood, and finally of the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has.
The deep and moving humanity of Mornings in Jenin forces us to take a fresh look at one of the defining political conflicts of our lifetimes.
15. Born Palestinian, Born Black by Suheir Hammad
Published: October 15, 1996
Publisher: Writers & Readers Publishing
Suheir Hammad has given us a collection of poems that have their roots in a land near the edge of the sea. Here is the voice of one woman who has not forgotten the plight of her people. Born Black is about culture, conflict, and consciousness.