Winner, Arab American National Museum Book Award for Children's/YA Literature, among other awards and honors.
"When a war ends it does not go away," my mother says."It hides inside us . . . Just forget!"
But I do not want to do what Mother says . . . I want to remember.
In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage, she stitches together memories of her childhood: fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of
life as a Palestinian refugee; her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. This is the beginning of her passionate connection to words, and as language becomes her refuge, allowing her to piece together the fragments of her world, it becomes her true home.
Transcending the particulars of politics, this illuminating and timely book provides a telling glimpse into a little-known culture that has become an increasingly important part of the puzzle of world peace.
This rare and timely memoir tracks Barakat's amazing story of survival, largely through her belief in the power of words to heal: "Stories may inspire us to join hearts and minds so that, with our collective wisdom, a solution for this conflict and any other is possible." As this haunting book opens, Israeli soldiers haul Ibtisam, then a teenager, off a bus in the West Bank in 1981 and detain her without explanation. Ibtisam secretly risks these trips out of her village in order to visit a post office box, where she receives letters from international pen pals her only link to a saner, safer world. While detained, she flashes back to details of the Six-Day War, in poetic yet searing prose. Ibtisam was little more than three years old when her family fled Ramallah in 1967 to a refugee camp in Jordan, and her memory of it, in a chapter called "Shoelaces," brims with tension and emotion. The narrator's understated tone lacks self-pity and thus allows readers to witness her fear and hope. She poignantly relates the Palestinian experience to that of street dogs: "I knew that they were dying and that they had come to our door only because, like us, they were seeking refuge. But instead of understanding, we shot at them, the way the warplanes shot at us." Ibtisam's reverence for language informs nearly everything she does, and it keeps her alive, whether corresponding with her pen pals or crafting this memoir: "a thread/ of a story/ stitches together/ a wound." Ages 12-up.