Pay No Heed to the Rockets – a book in progress

It occurred to me today that I haven’t “officially” announced my current project, at least not here online. Those who follow this blog know that a few years ago I spent a month as the writer-in-residence at the Palestine Writing Workshop. I became interested in Palestinian literary culture at that time and published a long digital essay on the topic called Song of the Caged Bird: Words as Resistance in Palestine. I now intend to expand that essay into a full-length book.

I’ve written about Palestine several times in the past, but I’ve long wanted to find a topic that I could work into a book. I want to enter into a discussion of contemporary Palestinian life through a different doorway than politics and conflict, and to portray Palestine in the present tense. Typically, we are shown Palestinians as either wretched victims or enraged militants. I’ve grown weary of this single story, and would like to write a book that expresses the sort of humanity and rendered invisible by UN resolutions, news reports, or disputed lines on a map.

So I’ve decided to enter the Palestinian experience through the door of literature. This will be a political book, to be sure, and my sympathies will be laid as bare as they were in Walls. But I will start with books and poems. Libraries and bookshops. Readers and writers.

As I write this overdue post, I am in Ramallah where I just met the charming poet, novelist and children’s book author Maya Abu Alhayat. I dined with acclaimed poet, and provocative critic, Najwan Darwish in Haifa last week, and I traveled to Beirut to meet the widow of famed Palestinian short story writer Ghassan Kanafani. Before the end of this particular trip – which will be one of several, no doubt – I hope to meet a handful of other writers, visit some libraries and bookstores, and meet with the families of writers who have passed away  – all in an attempt to learn what it means to be a writer and a reader in Palestine.

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