The Palestine Reading Circle explores books focused on Palestinian history, the Israeli occupation, Palestinian and international resistance, the connections between Palestine and other social movements, and Palestinian culture. We read and discuss a variety of works, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
The Palestine Reading Circle will meet every other month to meet and discuss selected readings. People with all levels of experience and understanding are welcome.
If you are interested in being part of the Palestine Reading Circle you can join the Palestine Reading Circle Facebook Group or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Reading Circle” to be added to the email list.
Information on how to get copies of books is below.
Here is information about what we have selected to read for our next meet-up on the evening of February 3, 2020:
Publisher: Grove Atlantic, 2019
Information: Paperback, 576 pages
A “sublime” (Zadie Smith) debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return home to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.
As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself.
Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.
Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence from the British Mandate, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.
Getting the books
We encourage you to support Edmonton’s local independent bookstore, Audreys Books. You can check availability online and request them to order the book if they don’t have it in stock. You can also order the books directly from the publisher (or North American distributor) by clicking on the publisher links above.
We strongly urge you to NOT purchase these (or any) books from Indigo-Chapters, World’s Biggest Bookstore, Smith Books, Coles, The Book Company or Indigo Spirit because of the support offered by controlling owners Heather Reisman and Gerry Shwartz for the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers. HESEG, which was founded by Ms. Reisman and Mr. Schwartz, provides scholarships and other support to former “lone soldiers” in the Israeli military – individuals from outside Israel with no family in the country who join the Israeli military and participate in all aspects of its repression of Palestinians. In January 2009 HESEG representatives handed out $160,000 worth of “thank you” gifts to Israeli soldiers participating in the attacks on Gaza.
If buying the books is cost-prohibitive, the Edmonton Public Library has copies of a number of PRC books in its collection and you can suggest to EPL that they order specific books for their collection.
In some cases, you may also be able to borrow copies of the books from other reading circle members.
Books we’ve read
Footnotes in Gaza
Publisher: Metropolitan Books, 2009
Information: Hardcover, 432 pages
Rafah, a town at the bottommost tip of the Gaza Strip, is a squalid place. Raw concrete buildings front trash-strewn alleys. The narrow streets are crowded with young children and unemployed men. On the border with Egypt, swaths of Rafah have been bulldozed to rubble. Rafah is today and has always been a notorious flashpoint in this bitterest of conflicts.
Buried deep in the archives is one bloody incident, in 1956, that left 111 Palestinians dead, shot by Israeli soldiers. Seemingly a footnote to a long history of killing, that day in Rafah—cold-blooded massacre or dreadful mistake—reveals the competing truths that have come to define an intractable war. In a quest to get to the heart of what happened, Joe Sacco immerses himself in daily life of Rafah and the neighboring town of Khan Younis, uncovering Gaza past and present. Spanning fifty years, moving fluidly between one war and the next, alive with the voices of fugitives and schoolchildren, widows and sheikhs, Footnotes in Gaza captures the essence of a tragedy.
As in Palestine and Safe Area Goražde, Sacco’s unique visual journalism has rendered a contested landscape in brilliant, meticulous detail. Footnotes in Gaza, his most ambitious work to date, transforms a critical conflict of our age into an intimate and immediate experience.
Defending Hope: Dispatches from the front lines in Palestine and Israel
Edited by Eóin Murray and James Mehigan
Publisher: Veritas, 2018
Information: Hardcover, 272 pages
Defending Hope is an inspiring collection of first-hand accounts by Palestinians and Israelis who movingly describe how their lives have been shaped by conflict and who are united by a common goal: to bring about a just peace for the land they call home.
Time and again these human rights defenders choose love, non-violence and human connection over division and fear. Their stories will transport you to the olive groves near Bethlehem, the rubble of Gaza and into the law courts in Jerusalem.
This book offers a hopeful counter-narrative in an otherwise bleak political landscape and celebrates the indomitable power of the human spirit in the midst of grave adversity.
The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story
Publisher: Pluto Press, 2018
Information: Paperback, 280 pages
Stretching over decades, encompassing bombing campaigns, ceasefires and mass exoduses, The Last Earth tells the story of modern Palestine through the memories of those who have survived it.
Palestinian history has long faced obstacles, first from Orientalist readings of the Middle East, and then by attempts from Zionists to replace Palestinian historical narratives. The Last Earth challenges previous takes on Palestinian history, unearthing the commonalities within the Palestinian narrative, separated through political divisions, geographical barriers and walls, factionalism, military occupation, and exile. Through testimonies and accounts, we come to understand the complexities and contradictions of memory and the telling of history in the midst of conflict.
As well as offering a history of the conflict and the region, The Last Earth also acts as a reclamation of history for the Palestinian people, allowing them to be active participants in shaping the present and the future.
Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation
Publisher: Pluto Press, 2012
Information: Paperback, 168 pages
Dubbed ‘the poster girl of Palestinian militancy’, Leila Khaled‘s image flashed across the world after she hijacked a passenger jet in 1969. The picture of a young, determined looking woman with a checkered scarf, clutching an AK-47, was as era-defining as that of Che Guevara.
In this intimate profile, based on interviews with Khaled and those who know her, Sarah Irving gives us the life-story behind the image. Key moments of Khaled’s turbulent life are explored, including the dramatic events of the hijackings, her involvement in the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a radical element within the PLO), her opposition to the Oslo peace process and her activism today.
Leila Khaled‘s example gives unique insights into the Palestinian struggle through one remarkable life – from the tension between armed and political struggle, to the decline of the secular left and the rise of Hamas, and the role of women in a largely male movement.
The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
Edited by Audrea Lim
Publisher: Verso Books, 2012
Information: Paperback, 244 pages
In July 2011, Israel passed legislation outlawing the public support of boycott activities against the state, corporations, and settlements, adding a crackdown on free speech to its continuing blockade of Gaza and the expansion of illegal settlements. Nonetheless, the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) continues to grow in strength within Israel and Palestine, as well as in Europe and the US.
This essential intervention considers all sides of the movement—including detailed comparisons with the South African experience—and contains contributions from both sides of the separation wall, along with a stellar list of international commentators.
With contributions by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Merav Amir, Hind Awwad, Mustafa Barghouthi, Omar Barghouti, Dalit Baum, Joel Beinin, John Berger, Angela Davis, Nada Elia, Marc Ellis, Noura Erakat, Neve Gordon, Ran Greenstein, Ronald Kasrils, Jamal Khader, Naomi Klein, Paul Laverty, Mark LeVine, David Lloyd, Ken Loach, Haneen Maikey, Rebecca O’Brien, Ilan Pappe, Jonathan Pollak, Laura Pulido, Lisa Taraki, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Michael Warschawski, and Slavoj Žižek.
I Saw Ramallah
Mourid Barghouti (translated from the Arabic by Ahdaf Souief)
Publisher: Anchor, 2003
Information: Paperback, 208 pages
Winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal, this fierce and moving work is an unparalleled rendering of the human aspects of the Palestinian predicament.
Barred from his homeland after 1967’s Six-Day War, the poet Mourid Barghouti spent thirty years in exile—shuttling among the world’s cities, yet secure in none of them; separated from his family for years at a time; never certain whether he was a visitor, a refugee, a citizen, or a guest. As he returns home for the first time since the Israeli occupation, Barghouti crosses a wooden bridge over the Jordan River into Ramallah and is unable to recognize the city of his youth. Sifting through memories of the old Palestine as they come up against what he now encounters in this mere “idea of Palestine,” he discovers what it means to be deprived not only of a homeland but of “the habitual place and status of a person.” A tour de force of memory and reflection, lamentation and resilience, I Saw Ramallah is a deeply humane book, essential to any balanced understanding of today’s Middle East.
A Little Piece of Ground
Publisher: Haymarket Books, 2007
Information: Paperback, 216 pages
A book for young adults, A Little Piece of Ground is the story of Karim Aboudi, 12, a soccer buff and computer game junkie. Like so many other boys his age, Karim hopes one day to do just what he likes without parents, big brothers, or teachers telling him what to do. Unlike many other boys, though, Karim lives under Israeli occupation in Ramallah, Palestine.
Twelve-year-old Karim Aboudi and his family are trapped in their Ramallah home by a strict curfew. Israeli tanks control the city in response to a Palestinian suicide bombing. Karim longs to play football with his mates – being stuck inside with his teenage brother and fearful parents is driving him crazy. When the curfew ends, he and his friend discover an unused patch of ground that’s the perfect site for a football pitch. Nearby, an old car hidden intact under bulldozed buildings makes a brilliant den. But in this city there’s constant danger, even for schoolboys. And when Israeli soldiers find Karim outside during the next curfew it seems impossible that he will survive …
A Little Piece of Ground is an exciting, enlightening and important story that brings to life the reality of events reported daily in the news, and will help young readers understand more about one of the worst conflicts affecting our world today.
Israel/Palestine and the Queer International
Publisher: Duke University Press, 2012
Information: Paperback, 208 pages
In this chronicle of political awakening and queer solidarity, the activist and novelist Sarah Schulman describes her dawning consciousness of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Invited to Israel to give the keynote address at an LGBT studies conference at Tel Aviv University, Schulman declines, joining other artists and academics honoring the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Anti-occupation activists in the United States, Canada, Israel, and Palestine come together to help organize an alternative solidarity visit for the American activist. Schulman takes us to an anarchist, vegan café in Tel Aviv, where she meets anti-occupation queer Israelis, and through border checkpoints into the West Bank, where queer Palestinian activists welcome her into their spaces for conversations that will change the course of her life. She describes the dusty roads through the West Bank, where Palestinians are cut off from water and subjected to endless restrictions while Israeli settler neighborhoods have full freedoms and resources.
As Schulman learns more, she questions the contradiction between Israel’s investment in presenting itself as gay friendly—financially sponsoring gay film festivals and parades—and its denial of the rights of Palestinians. At the same time, she talks with straight Palestinian activists about their position in relation to homosexuality and gay rights in Palestine and internationally. Back in the United States, Schulman draws on her extensive activist experience to organize a speaking tour for some of the Palestinian queer leaders whom she had met and trusted. Dubbed “Al-Tour,” it takes the activists to LGBT community centers, conferences, and universities throughout the United States. Its success solidifies her commitment to working to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and it kindles her larger hope that a new “queer international” will emerge and join other movements demanding human rights across the globe.
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books, 2007
Information: Paperback, 288 pages
Prior to Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 — Joe Sacco’s breakthrough novel of graphic journalism — the acclaimed author was best known for Palestine, a two-volume graphic novel that won an American Book Award in 1996. Fantagraphics Books is pleased to present the first single-volume collection of this landmark of journalism and the art form of comics. Based on several months of research and an extended visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s (where he conducted over 100 interviews with Palestinians and Jews), Palestine was the first major comics work of political and historical nonfiction by Sacco, whose name has since become synonymous with this graphic form of New Journalism. Like Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine has been favorably compared to Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus for its ability to brilliantly navigate such socially and politically sensitive subject matter within the confines of the comic book medium. Sacco has often been called the first comic book journalist, and he is certainly the best.