Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.
The very precariousness of existence in the camps quickens life itself. Amal, the patriarch's bright granddaughter, feels this with certainty when she discovers the joys of young friendship and first love and especially when she loses her adored father, who read to her daily as a young girl in the quiet of the early dawn. Through Amal we get the stories of her twin brothers, one who is kidnapped by an Israeli soldier and raised Jewish; the other who sacrifices everything for the Palestinian cause. Amal’s own dramatic story threads between the major Palestinian-Israeli clashes of three decades; it is one of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, and parenthood, and finally of the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has.
MY REVIEW: This was my pick for our book club for September as my mum read it with her book club and said it was a must read. And she was right.
Mornings in Jenin is a beautifully written story of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. The story spans across 4 generations and brings us on the most heartbreaking and harrowing journey from 1940s Palestine to the early 2000s in the USA.
At the heart of the story is a family that has been torn apart by the conflict and who can never escape their war stricken history. From a kidnapped brother who is raised as an Israeli, to a daughter born in a refugee camp, to a mother so broken by war she gradually loses herself, this story will evoke in you so many emotions of sadness, shock and anger and will stay with you for a long time.
The thing I loved most about this book was the writing. It was beautifully poetic and really had story telling at its heart. We get a truly eye opening account of what this conflict was like from a Palestinian perspective but it doesn’t feel overly political or preachy. Abulwaha is simply bringing us on this journey and showing us a side to the story that so few have seen or heard.
Another thing that clearly shows the triumph and skill of the writing is how Abulwaha succeeds in portraying some truly awful scenes of violence but does so in a way that does not make the reader shy away from it. She finds the perfect balance of not taking away from the level of atrocity inflicted on the Palestinians but still manages to soften the blow for the reader somehow. For example, there is one scene where a maybe is killed by a piece of shrapnel and the way it is described is so beautifully poetic that the reader doesn't feel overwhelmed with disgust but it awakens other emotions of shock and empathy that encourages the reader to keep going.
I encourage everyone to read this. It shamefully showed me how little I know about this part of our history and has truly opened my eyes to the power of media and propaganda and how we can so quickly choose to believe one side of a story. It is said that this book has done for Palestine what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan.
Just be warned, it’s a really heavy read. Some of the scenes described are quite upsetting and the way it is written is so real and beautifully done you would actually believe that this was a work of a nonfiction.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
"The future can't breather in a refugee camp, Amal. The air here is too dense got hope. You are being offered a chance to liberate the life that lies dormant in all of us. Take it."
Yousef, I would have liked to see more of him at times because he was such a strong and complex character.