If there’s one kind of person I envy, it’s the one who reads. Now that I’m on summer break (my last one ever), I have a growing list of books I’d like to get through and eventually share with you. Once I finish these five books, I’ll move on to the next five. As always, I am open to your suggestions.
1. Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture, by John Conroy
This book was a suggested reading for one of my human rights courses back in undergrad. The book chronicles three different arenas of torture, including one that readers of this website will undoubtedly be very familiar with: racially-driven torture orchestrated by Chicago police in undisclosed interrogation rooms, state-authorized British torture of IRA members in Northern Ireland, and a not-so-secret torture ring operated by Israeli officers designed not only to intimidate Palestinians but to permanently maim them as well. Buy the book on Amazon.
2. The Woman from Tantoura, by Radwa Ashour
Written by the highly acclaimed late Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour, this book explores the Palestinian narrative through the eyes of a young girl growing up in the midst of violence and occupation in her village of Tantoura. It is a heartwrenching story with what I imagine to be a treasure trove of personal insights into how it feels to see your land, your culture, and your identity stripped away from you. I actually discovered this book before learning that it was translated by one of my favorite undergrad professors of all time, Kay Heikkinen, so that was a neat treat. Buy the book on Amazon.
3. After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, by Edward Said and Jean Mohr
This book combines two of my favorite things: photography mixed with an assortment of personal musings on the Palestinian identity. Said does a better job of articulating my thoughts and emotions than I can, and I have heard from numerous sources that of all of his books, this is the one to sit down with first. I’ve read excerpts in the past and remember how eloquently and vividly Said contextualizes the Palestinian struggle and much of what characterizes it: exile, loss, changed landscapes, and constant battles with the question, “Who, as a Palestine, am I?” Buy the book on Amazon.
4. Behind the Intifada: Labor and Women’s Movements in the Occupied Territories, by Joost Hiltermann
With a very wide and comprehensive lens, Joost Hiltermann studies how local organizations — trade unions and women’s organizations, mainly — helped in the development of a framework of resistance in the occupied Palestinian territories. These organizations served two related purposes: they provided services that were otherwise unavailable or severely limited, and they mobilized those that they served, instilling in them a nationalistic pride that added depth and numbers to the First Intifada. Buy the book on Amazon.
5. Then Palestine, by Larry Towell
I’ve featured some of Larry Towell’s photography in the past on this blog. The first Canadian to join the Magnum photo agency, Towell took seven trips to occupied Palestine to document life under military rule. His photographs are raw and heavy, each telling a story about loss or despair. I am a unabashed advocate of focusing just as much on the positive and uplifting aspects of the greater Palestinian narrative, which this collection of photographs doesn’t necessarily do, but the images themselves are so moving that it would be criminal of me to neglect them. Buy the book on Amazon.
After writing these brief descriptions, I’m just now realizing how dark this small selection of books is. The next set, which I’m already thinking about, will hopefully be just as diverse but a little more upbeat and optimistic.