If you saw on social media, I was reading a few Palestinian authored and books on Palestine in October. If you want links for resources for what you can do as well as media recommendations, check out my link tree. But I wanted to share these mini reviews in case you were thinking about picking them up. Currently we just finished the Read Palestine Week, so make sure to stay tuned for what I read during that one! Keep reading for mini reviews of Freedom is a Constant Struggle, Palestine, Salt Houses, and Minor Detail.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “Freedom is a constant struggle.”
Freedom is a Constant Struggle made for an amazing audiobook read. It’s narrated by Angela Davis and this gave it a fantastic added layer. With a call and response feel to the conversations in the emails and conversations, Freedom is a Constant Struggle is about collective liberation. About realizing that the fight is never done, that we exist in a world of intertwined movements propped up to keep certain systems in power. While it’s not entirely about Palestine, only a few essays, it’s a great conversation starter especially if you’re coming from a US perspective.
To see the ways in which liberation struggles in the US are intertwined and the embedded oppression in power systems. If you are new to this idea of sustained activism or just want to start with authors who are speaking more from a US perspective – to start – then check this one out. Find Freedom is a Constant Struggle on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Blackwells, Libro.fm, and Google Play.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
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.
This non-fiction graphic memoir full of illustrations and conversations is a weighty graphic novel to get through. Not only does it portray Sacco’s time in Palestine and the people he met, but it’s also full of detail including sections of prose as well. Rooted in how the lives of some individuals mean more than others, I deeply enjoyed reading this graphic novel. Sacco’s perspective coming from the United States allowed me to ease into some of his preconceptions as well.
Palestine examines the anti-Palestinian rhetoric from the beginning serving as both history and also a portrayal of the now. Of the ways in which Palestinians face oppression from all fronts whether it be the destruction of their trees, homes, or even future prospects. It also doesn’t shy away from critiquing our own media and the stories that make it to our news. The laws that matter on the ground, in the stretches of roads and crossings. A world torn apart by borders and wars and arbitrary lines, barbed wires. Find Palestine on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Bookshop.org, & Blackwells.
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.
Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.
Salt Houses is a testament to how we are impacted and haunted by our past, loss, and memories. When we can’t mourn our own past, how can we see hope for our future. Multi-generational, Salt Houses is a touching and at times lyrical story about family. About identity and home and the ways in which it flees, evolves, and crumbles before us. There’s a whole spectrum of characters whose lives are touched by foundations of loss and 24 hour notices.
Listening to the audiobook was a touching experience because it not only delves into this interwoven family, but their own secrets and misconceptions of each other. We’re able to see the ways the older generations have disguised their loss, keep it away from young eyes. And for the younger generations who don’t know who they are, don’t know how to make sense of who they are removed from their homes and languages, cultures and families, more over. Find Salt Houses on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Blackwells, and Libro.fm.
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba – the catastrophe that led to the displacement and expulsion of more than 700,000 people – and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers capture and rape a young Palestinian woman, and kill and bury her in the sand. Many years later, a woman in Ramallah becomes fascinated to the point of obsession with this ‘minor detail’ of history. A haunting meditation on war, violence and memory, Minor Detail cuts to the heart of the Palestinian experience of dispossession, life under occupation, and the persistent difficulty of piecing together a narrative in the face of ongoing erasure and disempowerment.
Minor Detail wouldn’t normally be something I’d pick up from trigger warnings alone. But when the award ceremony was cancelled at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2023, I knew I had to pick this up and give it the respect it deserves. And I am so glad I did. Upon immediately finishing this, I wanted to re-read it. This is a harrowing tale of rape, dehumanization, and oppression. It’s a story that echoes from the past into our present. With little details, Shibli weaves a story which feels grounded and horrific, but also specific and breathing.
The different echoes of the past in the future, in the same sand bearing witness, in the camels and animals who are seen as no better than their enemies, and the scents which are universal portents of fear. In a world that seeks to erase the past, the mistakes of our ancestors, and the transgressions, Minor Detail plays a pivotal role as a scream from the past. Find Minor Detail on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Bookshop.org, & Blackwells.