Books

20 of the best books written by Palestinian authors

In honour of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we’re celebrating the best books written by Palestinian authors.

On this day, we’ve chosen to highlight a selection of the greatest books by Palestinian authors to celebrate their unwavering spirit and rich cultural legacy. The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is an annual event that is observed by the United Nations on 29 November.

Chosen in 1977, this date refers to the Partition Resolution of 1947 where Palestine was partitioned into two: the “Jewish State” and the “Arab State.” Telling stories of resistance, humanity, love, and conflict, these books are sure to give you an insight into an oft-misrepresented part of the world.

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Edward Said, author of ‘Orientalism’ and ‘The Question of Palestine’ (Photo: NICHOLAS TURPIN/THE INDEPENDENT/SHUTTERSTOCK)
Fiction:

Men in the Sun – Ghassan Kanafani (1963)

Men in the Sun follows three Palestinian refugees at an Iraqi refugee camp, from where they wish to escape to Kuwait and find work as labourers in the oil boom. Written by Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani, the novel deftly captures the tragedy, humanity, and heartbreak of Palestinian displacement during the 20th century.

men in the sun
Photo: Amazon

Palestine’s Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories – Ghassan Kanafani (1984)

Palestine’s Children follows the stories of displaced Palestinian children in the late 1940s and the 1970s. As with his other novels, Ghassan Kanafani’s Palestine’s Children uncovers the human cost of the Israeli occupation. Tracing and its effect on the children born into the violence, Kanafani’s novel is a long-standing testament to the spirit of the Palestinians, past and present, who have had to sacrifice everything amongst the violence.

Palestine's Children

Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa (2010)

Following the Abulhejas — a forcibly displaced Palestinian family in 1948 — Mornings in Jenin explores their longings of freedom, peace, and home, as they are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. Originally published as The Scar of David, the book is deeply compelling in its depiction of Palestinian humanity, the costs of war, and hopes for reconciliation.

Mornings-in-Jenin
Photo: Amazon

Minor Detail – Adania Shibli (2017)

Minor Detail is a meditation on violence, displacement, and memory, as it explores Palestinian suffering during Al-Nakba (literally, The Catastrophe) — events that included the Palestinian exodus that occurred during the 1948 War with Israel, denial of the right to return of Palestinians and the forcible collapse of Palestinian society. Focusing on a brutal crime that occurs during these historical events, Minor Detail follows a young woman in Ramallah, much later in the future, who becomes obsessed with this “minor detail.”

minor details best books written by palestinian authors
Photo: Amplify Bookstore

Salt Houses – Hala Alyan (2017)

A multi-generational saga that spans four generations of a family hailing from Palestine, Salt Houses humanises the catastrophic consequences of political violence and displacement. Narrated from multiple perspectives of the same family, Palestinian author Hala Alyan’s novel explores themes of survival, hope, tradition, and the costs of war.

salt houses
Photo: Penguin

Against the Loveless World – Susan Abulhawa (2020)

Narrated by Nahr, a political prisoner who is incarcerated in the harsh conditions of The Cube (an Israeli prison), Against the Loveless World tells the story of Nahr’s current predicament, while winding back through time to explain her heartbreaking history.

against-the-loveless-world ss
Photo: Simon & Schuster

My First and Only Love – Sahar Khalifeh (2021)

My First and Only Love is a poetic account of Palestinian resistance through the perspective of a young woman, Nadal. Returning to occupied Palestine, for the first time since the Nakba displaced her entire family, Nadal’s journey in learning about her past is a moving, urgent exploration into history, political urgency, humanity, and home.

MyFirstandOnlyLove best books written by palestinian authors

The Book of Ramallah: A City in Short Fiction – Maya Abu al-Hayat (2021)

Exploring the undercurrents of a city, Ramallah, The Book of Ramallah explores various aspects of Palestinian life under occupation. Edited by Maya Abu al-Hayat, but with ten stories written by ten different writers, The Book of Ramallah is an anthology of Palestinian love, joy, heartbreak, creativity, and hope.

the book of ramallah palestine best

The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion – Akram Musallam (2021)

Set between the two IntifadasThe Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion is a meditation on absence, loss, and emptiness. As described by the publisher, “[While] Absurd at times, raw at others, The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion explores Palestinian identity through Akram Musallam’s extended metaphors in the hope of transcending the loss of territory and erasure of history.”

the dance of the deep blue scorpion
Photo: University of Chicago Press
Poetry:

Born Palestinian, Born Black – Suheir Hammad (1996)

An urgent voice for the dispossessed, Palestinian author Suheir Hammad’s Born Palestinian, Born Black is a vividly emotional anthology. Exploring the struggles that both unite and divide humanity, Born Palestinian, Born Black explores intergenerational fractures, the costs of political violence, and the essential, human survival spirit.

born palestinian, born black
Photo: Amazon

In the Presence of Absence – Mahmoud Darwish (2006)

Widely regarded as the Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish’s In the Presence of Absence was one of the writer’s last works and explores the relationship between tormenting contradictions. As reviewed for the Egypt Independent: “[In the Presence of Absence] is built, even more than the others, on the tension of opposites: life and death, presence and absence, home and exile, poetry and prose. It insists on being neither story nor poem. The book’s prosaic elements sketch in a life lived, with its beginnings, middles, and a clear farewell. But the poetry collapses story-time, turning everything dense and luminous.”

in the presence of absence
Photo: Penguin

Ever Since I Did Not Die – Ramy Al Asheq (2021)

Detailing Ramy Al Asheq’s journey from Yarmouk, Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, to Germany, Ever Since I Did Not Die reflects the intimate suffering of a homeland, and a life left behind. As reviewed by Poetry Foundation: “This work makes for painful reading: it shines a light on our collective inadequacies, as a species, and as individuals, in our lives and loves, and it brings into public view our failed attempts to right the wrongs that have been visited on innocent peoples across the centuries.”

ever since I did not die
Photo: Goodreads

Rifqa – Mohammed el-Kurd (2021)

Written with blazing passion and outstanding control of his poetic voice, Mohammed el-Kurd’s debut poetry collection vividly describes the writer’s experience of dispossession, dislocation, and loss, in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — an experience he frequently documents on social media.

Rifqa
Photo: Haymarket Books
Non-Fiction:

Orientalism – Edward Said (1978)

Widely regarded as a foundational work in the field of post-colonial studies, Palestinian-American Edward Said’s Orientalism describes the eponymous concept as a framework used by Western scholars in their denigrated depictions of “The Orient.” The work has had an immeasurable impact on many fields of study, including literary criticism, cultural studies, and epistemological studies.

orientalism best books written by palestinian authors
Photo: Penguin

The Question of Palestine – Edward Said (1979)

With the same academic rigor that he applied in the construction of Orientalism, Edward Said’s The Question of Palestine “traces the fatal collision between two peoples in the Middle East and its repercussions in the lives of both the occupier and the occupied–as well as in the conscience of the West.” While written almost 50 years ago, the book has been updated to include major events like the Second Intifada, Gulf War and Madrid Peace conference, and remains an authoritative account of the complex political undercurrents of “the question of Palestine.”

the question of palestine
Photo: Kobo

In Search of Fatima – Ghada Karmi (2002)

A heartbreakingly intimate memoir, Ghada Karmi’s In Search of Fatima details the writer’s own experience of displacement, identity loss, and diaspora, as readers are taken from her childhood in Palestine to her escape to Britain after the catastrophe of 1948.

palestinian books in search of fatima
Photo: Amazon

I Saw Ramallah – Mourid Barghouti (2003)

Detailing the Palestinian author’s own experience of a three-decade exile from his home country, I Saw Ramallah is a deeply emotional account of returning to a place that no longer exists. As reviewed by Publishers’ Weekly, “Barghouti, who now lives in Cairo, intersperses the story of his homecoming with his history of journeys across the Arab world. ‘The displaced person becomes a stranger to his memories and so he tries to cling to them.’ His deft mind and words show how, for many Palestinians, politics have swallowed up the personal.”

i saw ramallah
Photo: Amazon

Palestinian Walks – Rajeh Shehadeh (2008)

An autobiographical account of Rajeh Shehadeh’s six walks through the landscape of Ramallah while telling readers the stories of the land, and traversing the history, the politics, the people of Ramallah, an Israeli-occupied city on the West Bank of Palestine.

palestinian walks
Photo: Esquire Middle East

My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story – Ramzy Baroud (2010)

Blending personal history with the political turmoil of Gaza, a Palestinian city on the frontlines of the Israeli occupation efforts, My Father was a Freedom Fighter traces the life of Ramzy Baroud’s father. Forced to leave his village for a refugee camp, the book depicts the father’s efforts in fighting the occupation, while trying to raise his family.

freedom fighter palestinian books
Photo: Amazon

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonial Conquest and Resistance – Rashid Khalidi (2020)

In 1899, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, Palestine,  wrote a letter to Theodore Herzl (the “father” of Zionism) about the resistance of his indigenous people against occupation by colonial settlers. Now, al-Khalidi’s great-great-nephew, Palestinian-American author Rashid Khalidi has written an account of the conflict from the Palestinian perspective.

As reviewed in The Guardian, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine is described as an “informed” and “passionate account of Jewish settlers’ conquest of Palestine. It pulls no punches in its critique of Jewish-Israeli policies (policies that have had wholehearted US support after 1967), but it also lays out the failings of the Palestinian leadership.”

hundred years war palestine
Photo: Allen & Unwin