Mornings in Jenin is a heart-wrenching, powerfully written novel that could do for Palestine what The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini did for Afghanistan. Pontas represents Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa worldwide and is also developing a film adaptation, as was recently informed through Screen Daily. Just some weeks ago the new edition in English was published by Bloomsbury and distributed strongly in the US, UK and Australia.
Palestine 1941. In the small village of Ein Hod a father leads a procession of his family and workers through the olive groves. As they move through the trees the green fruits drop onto the orchard floor; the ancient cycle of the seasons providing another bountiful harvest. Palestine 1948. The Abulheja family are forcibly removed from their ancestral home in Ein Hod and sent to live in a refugee camp in Jenin. Through Amal, the bright granddaughter of the patriarch, we witness the stories of her brothers: one, a stolen boy who becomes an Israeli soldier; the other who in sacrificing everything for the Palestinian cause will become his enemy. Amal’s own dramatic story threads its way through six decades of Palestinian-Israeli tension, eventually taking her into exile in Pennsylvania in America. Amal’s is a story of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, parenthood, and finally the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has. Richly told and full of humanity, Mornings in Jenin forces us to take a fresh look at one of the defining political conflicts of our time. It is an extraordinary debut.
Robin Yassin-Kassab wrote in The Times on February 6, 2010 : “Mornings in Jenin is the first English-language novel to express fully the human dimension of the Palestinian tragedy. The Zionist story has Palestine before the state of Israel as “a land without a people awaiting a people without a land”. Writers from Mark Twain to Leon Uris, as well as Hollywood studios and certain church pulpits, retell the tale. But Palestinians, in the West at least, lack a popular counter-narrative. Palestinians are reported on, met only on the news. Perhaps this is changing. As the land disappears from under their feet Palestinians have been investing in culture. (…) At times you want to criticise Abulhawa for laying the tragedy on too thick, but her raw material is historical fact and her blend of fiction and documentary is one of the book’s strengths. What rescues Mornings in Jenin from polemic is its refusal to wallow or to stoop to tribalism. One of its many achievements is that, for such a necessarily political work, no character becomes a mere cipher for suffering or victimhood. Although the novel is written according to Anglo-American conventions, it echoes the poetic prose that is a feature of contemporary Arabic writing. Abulhawa effectively communicates her bubbling joy in what she calls “the dance” of Arabic, pondering the language’s intricate courtesies and imagistic flair”.
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