2020 Palestine Book Awards Winner
2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist
“Susan Abulhawa possesses the heart of a warrior; she looks into the darkest crevices of lives, conflicts, horrendous injustices, and dares to shine light that can illuminate hidden worlds for us.” —Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author
In this “beautiful...urgent” novel (The New York Times), Nahr, a young Palestinian woman, fights for a better life for her family as she travels as a refugee throughout the Middle East.
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. Nahr’s subversive humor and moral ambiguity will resonate with fans of My Sister, The Serial Killer, and her dark, contemporary struggle places her as the perfect sister to Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties.
Written with Susan Abulhawa’s distinctive “richly detailed, beautiful, and resonant” (Publishers Weekly) prose, this powerful novel presents a searing, darkly funny, and wholly unique portrait of a Palestinian woman who refuses to be a victim.
Abulhawa (The Blue Between Sky and Water) charts a Palestinian woman's gradual turn to sex work followed by violent resistance against Israeli settlers in this tragic and engrossing work. Middle-aged Nahr, the narrator, is in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison, where she recounts her life story. Born in Kuwait to Palestinian exiles in 1967 and named Yaqoot after her father's mistress, Nahr grows up with her mother, brother Jehad, and overbearing paternal grandmother. In 1985, she marries the gruff Mhammad, who abandons her two years later. Shortly after, Nahr meets a woman at a friend's wedding, who manipulates her into prostitution, which Nahr continues doing to help finance Jehad's education. When anti-Palestinian sentiment ramps up following the expulsion of the invading Iraqis in 1991, Jehad is arrested and tortured for collaboration, and the family flees to Jordan. The 1995 Oslo Accords allow Nahr to travel to Palestine and secure a divorce from Mhammad, and there she witnesses the injustices levied against Palestinians and joins in escalating acts of resistance until the eruption of the Second Intifada leads to serious danger. Abulhawa demonstrates the effect of trauma and helplessness on Nahr and others, leading them to violence. The detailed explorations of a woman's pain and desperate measures make this lush story stand out.