Palestine Biography

palestinebooksnet - header graphic - Biography (Hebron ladder)

Said K. Aburish

Arafat : From Defender to Dictator  (Bloomsbury, 1998)

 

Eleanor Aitken [founder of UNIPAL, charity for educational exchange with Palestinians, est. 1972]

Ariadne’s Thread : Through the Labyrinth to Palestine and Israel  (Cambridge : Cornelian, 1999) Work on women human rights workers and teachers.

 

 

Sami ‘Amr

A Young Palestinian’s Diary, 1941-1945 : The Life of Sami ‘Amr  (University of Texas Press, 2009)  Translated, annotated and with an introduction by Kimberly Katz; with foreword by Salim Tamari.  Publisher’s blurb : “Writing in his late teens and early twenties, Sami’Amr gave his diary an apt subtitle: “The Battle of Life”, encapsulating both the political climate of Palestine in the waning years of the British Mandate as well as the contrasting joys and troubles of family life. Now translated from the Arabic, Sami’s diary represents a rare artefact of turbulent change in the Middle East. Written over four years, these ruminations of a young man from Hebron brim with revelations about daily life against a backdrop of tremendous transition. Describing the public and the private, the modern and the traditional, Sami muses on relationships, his station in life, and other universal experiences while sharing numerous details about a pivotal moment in Palestine’s modern history. Making these never-before-published reflections available in translation, Kimberly Katz also provides illuminating context for Sami’s words, laying out biographical details of Sami, who kept his diary private for close to sixty years. One of a limited number of Palestinian diaries available to English-language readers, the diary of Sami’Amr bridges significant chasms in our understanding of Middle Eastern, and particularly Palestinian, history.”

 

Abdel Bari Atwan

A Country of Words : A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page  (Saqi Books, 2008)    More than just a particular Palestinian’s autobiographical achievements, Atwan’s voice is as important as his story. I’m partial to memoirs of toilers in the newspaper biz, but this book delivers great kicks.

 

Ibtisam Barakat  (Palestinian-American teacher and poet)

Balcony on the Moon : Coming of Age in Palestine  (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan, 2016-2017)  Memoir, 1971-1981

Tasting the Sky : A Palestinian Childhood (Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) Memoir to 1971.

 

Gabi Baramki

Peaceful Resistance : Building a Palestinian University under Occupation  [Birzeit University]  (Pluto Press, 2010)   A personal account of the establishment and maintenance of the first Palestinian university, most interesting for the post-1967 Occupation years but before Oslo.

 

Kai Bird

Crossing Mandelbaum Gate : Coming of Age between the Arabs and the Israelis, 1956-1978  (Simon & Schuster 2010)    Worthy memoir by the son of an American diplomat who grew up witnessing changes along the Palestinians’ time line.

 

Issa J. Boullata

The Bells of Memory : A Palestinian Boyhood in Jerusalem  (Quebec : Linda Leith Publishing, 89 pages, 2014)

 

Elias Chacour with David HazardBlood Brothers : The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel  (Grand rapids, Michigan : Chosen Books, c.1984; updated edition, Baker Books, 2013)

Elias Chacour with Alain Michel; Anthony Harvey, editor : Faith Beyond Despair : Building Hope in the Holy Land  (Canterbury Press, 2011)

Elias Chacour with Mary E. Jensen We Belong to the Land : One Man’s Mission to Spread Peace in a Country of Conflict (Marshall Pickering, c.1990 / 1992; updated edition, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000)

 

Wadad Makdisi Cortas  (mother-in-law of Edward Said)

The World I Loved  (Nation Books, 2009)  Lebanon, but relevant to Palestine.

 

Larry Derfner  (Ha’aretz, formerly with the Jerusalem Post)

No Country for Jewish Liberals  (Charlottesville, Virginia : Just World Books, 2017)  Los Angeles born, Israeli journalist describes a society provocatively out of step with Jewish liberals and the Left.

 

Jasmine Donahaye (Swansea University)

Losing Israel (Seren, 2015)  Author discovers her grandparent kibbutzniks’ displacement of fellahin “by capital in the 1920 and 1930, and by war in 1948.”

 

Fadia Faqir, editor, with translation by Shirley Eber

In the House of Silence : autobiographical Essays (Garnet Publishing Arab Women Writers Series, 1998/1999) Contains  : Liana Badr (Palestine), Nawal el-Saadawi & Fawzia Rashid (Bahrain)Salwa Bakr (Egypt), Hoda Barakat & Hadia Said (Lebanon), Fadia Faqir (Jordan), Alia Mamdouh & Samira al-Mana’ (Iraq), Ahlem Mosteghanemi & Zhor Ounissi (Algeria), Hamida Na’Na (Syria), Aroussia Nalouti (Tunisia).

 

Andrew Gowers  and Tony Walker

Behind the Myth : Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Revolution (Interlink Books, 2001) Based on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with senior PLO figures, including Arafat, as well as senior American, Arab, Israeli and European officials, it is a comprehensive portrait of the evolution of the Palestinian resistance from its earliest days as an unruly and little noticed collection of guerrilla factions, through its rise to international prominence, right up to the position following the Gulf War and the historic Madrid Peace Conference of 1991.            It is the story of internecine strife and external conflict; of weakness and over-confidence; of mistakes and miscalculations; and of many lost opportunities for peace. But it is above all the story of of the dream that Arafat has done more than anyone to sustain in the face of daunting odds: the idea that Palestinian people should have the right to determine their own future.

 

Laila El-Haddad

Gaza Mom : Palestine, Politics, Parenting and Everything in Between  (Just World Books, 2010 and edited ed., 2013)

 

Mahdi Abdul Hadi (PASSIA founder and educator)

The Other Side of the Coin : A Native Palestinian Tells His Story (PASSIA, 1998)

 

 

Alan Hart (Middle East chief correspondent for Independent Television News/ITV; BBC presenter of Panorama programme)

Arafat, a Political Biography  (Indiana University Press, 1989)

Arafat : Terrorist or Peacemaker?  (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987)

 

 

Sarah Irving

Leila Khaled : Icon of Palestinian Liberation  (Pluto Press, 2012)              An improvement on Khaled’s own 1975 autobiography, long since out of print.  Irving allows the subject’s voice to come through, and her own critical assessment as well.

Palestine   (Bradt Travel Guides, ca. 2010)  An insightful walking guide for intrepid ramblers, but an indispensable reference work too.  Keep it handy.  –AS

 

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Princesses Street : Baghdad Memories   -translated by Issa J. Boullata (University of Arkansas Press, 2005)

The First Well – A Bethlehem Boyhood  (University of Arkansas Press, 1995 / Hesperus, 2012)  A pop culture view of the diversity of the Palestinian Arab community in Bethlehem and his upbringing amongst the “shouts of books” in the cosmopolitan city.

See also : FICTION

 

Ghada Karmi

Return : A Palestinian Memoir   (Verso Books, 2015)

Edward Said : A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation (edited by Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom, University of California Press, 2010)  Chapter : Said and the Palestinian Diaspora : A Personal Reflection

In Search of Fatima : A Palestinian Story  (Verso, 2004) This hugely successful account of how the author’s childhood in Jerusalem became, in 1948,  a lifetime in exile is much more than a gripping personal narrative.   All the major events of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are covered here, by a Palestinian woman who grew up in Golders Green, and from wanting nothing more than to ‘fit in’ with her new surroundings, become one of the world’s leading  commentators on Palestine. – Naomi Foyle.  Autobiography which superbly balances being neither overly self-centred nor polemical.

 

Kathy Saade Kenny

Katrina in Five Worlds : A Palestinian Women’s Story / Katrina en Cinco Mundos : Historia de una Mujer Palestina (Oakland: Five Worlds Press, bilingual, 113pp, 2010). Palestinian-American author’s exploration of her grandmother’s life in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Kiev, San Pedro de Las Colonias, and finally Long Beach, California, where she lived after a difficult split with her conservative husband, who returned to Palestine.

 

Anbara Salam Khalidi

Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist : The Life and Activism of Anbara Salam Khalidi (translated by Tarif Khalidi; Pluto Press, 2014)

 

Felicia Langer

An Age of Stone  (Quartet Books, 1988)

These are My Brothers : Israel and the Occupied Territories, Part 2  (Ithaca Press, 1979)

With My Own Eyes : Israel and the Occupied Territories, 1967-1973  (with foreword byIsrael Shahak, Ithaca Press, 1975)

 

Ofra Yeshua-Lyth (Journalist with Ma’ariv)

The Case for a Secular New Jerusalem – A Memoir (Createspace, 2014)  Translation from Hebrew of Erietz, Brith (Nimrod, 2004)

 

Rachel Mairs

The Untold Lives of Dragomans : The Dragoman Solomon Negime and His Clients (Bloomsbury, 2015)  Christian Palestinian tour guide in Jaffa and Jerusalem, from the 1880s until the Great War.  Period accounts of both Negime and his customers.

 

Betty Dagher Majaj

A War Without Chocolate : One Woman’s Journey through Two Nations, Three Wars, and Four Children  (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015)

 

Jean Said Makdisi  (b. Jerusalem, raised in Cairo, Beirut)

Makdisi, as editor, Serene Husseini Shahid : Jerusalem Memories  (Beirut : Naufal Books, 1999, 2000)

Teta, Mother and Me  (Saqi Books & WW Norton & Co, 2005 & 2007)

Beirut Fragments : A War Memoir (NYC: Persea Books, 1990)

as co-editor with Martin AsserShafiq Al-Hout; translated by Hader al-Hout and Laila Othman :

My Life in the PLO – The Inside Story of the Palestinian Struggle (Pluto, 2011)

 

Mike Marqusee

If I am not for Myself : Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew  (Verso, 2008)  Well-made points from the viewpoint of the author’s Leftist New York City family background and how they, and others, didn’t twig the disconnect between social justice and Zionism in the post-holocaust era.

 

Nur Masalha   (Palestinian historian and professor linked to the University of Surrey and SOAS : “The rupture of 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine are central to both the Palestinian society of today and Palestinian social history and collective identity. Resisting ethnic cleansing and politicide has been a key feature of the modern history of the Palestinians as a people.”

Ariel Sharon : A Political Profile  (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, 2001)

King Faisal I of Iraq : A Study of His Political Leadership, 1921-1933  (PhD thesis, University of London, 1987)

 

Sari Nusseibeh

Once Upon a Country : A Palestinian Life    (Halban Books, 2007)  Extraordinary autobiography of President of Al-Quds University, who tried to use his cosmopolitan awareness to bypass Israeli officialdom in forming a viable Palestinian state.

 

Laila Parsons (McGill University / Harvard University / Oxford University)

The Commander : Fawzi al-Qawaqji and the Fight for Arab Independence, 1914-1948  (Hill & Wang, 2016 / Saqi Books, 2017)  An astonishing yet well-nuanced biography of a dedicated military commander, who was unjustly ignored by post-1948 Arab political activists.   The author shares varied period opinions of the Nakba, which is generous as most historians simply wouldn’t.   Publisher’s blurb : “Revered by some as the Arab Garibaldi, maligned by others as an intriguer and opportunist, al_Qawaqji manned the ramparts of Arab history for four decades. As a young officer in the Ottoman Army, he fought the British in World War I and won an Iron Cross. In the 1920s, he mastered the art of insurgency and helped lead a massive uprising against the French authorities in Syria. A decade later, he reappeared in Palestine, where he helped direct the Arab Revolt of 1936.  When an effort to overthrow the British rulers of Iraq failed, he moved to Germany, where he spent much of World War II battling his fellow exile, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who had accused him of being a British spy. In 1947, Qawuqji made a daring escape from Allied-occupied Berlin, and sought once again to shape his region’s history. In his most famous role, he would command the Arab Liberation Army in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.”

 

Miko Peled

Injustice : The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five  (Just World Books, 2017-2018)  Publisher’s blurb : “In a series of early-morning raids in July 2004, federal agents raided the homes of five Palestinian-American Muslim families. They arrested the five fathers, who then became known as the Holy Land Foundation Five. The five were falsely charged with providing support to a terrorist organization, Hamas, by giving money to Palestinian charities in the West Bank and Gaza—entities with which U.S. government aid agencies and global bodies like the International Red Cross had long worked on a regular basis. In 2013, human rights activist and author Miko Peled started investigating this case. He discussed the miscarriages of justice with the men’s lawyers and heard from the men’s families about the devastating effects the case had on their lives. He also traveled to the remote federal prison complexes where the men were held to conduct deep interviews. Injustice traces the labyrinthine course of this case, presenting a terrifying picture of governmental over-reach in post-9/11 America.”

The General’s Son : Journey of an Israeli in Palestine With foreword by Alice Walker(Just World Books, 2012) An Israeli-American’s rejection of garrison state culture and activism in “Area A” of the West Bank.  Author’s father was Matti Peled, one of the commanders of the 1967 war, who protested the occupation and predicted its consequences.

 

Karl Sabbagh

Britain in Palestine : The Story of British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948  (Skyscraper Publications, 2012)   Accompaniment to the SOAS/Brunei Gallery exhibition.  Many illustrations yet compact.

Palestine : A Personal History   (Atlantic Books, 2006) Sabbagh, whose father was the lead broadcaster for the BBC Arabic Service during WWII, here interweaves the literary and political history of Palestine, with his own family’s story, in particular his father’s experience during the partition of his country and creation of Israel. -NF

 

Steve Sabella (Jerusalem-born, Berlin-residing Palestinian artist-photographer)

The Parachute Paradox : Steve Sabella  (Berlin : Kerber Verlag, 2016)  Memoir of three decades of the artist’s life under Israeli occupation.

 

Mostafa Salameh

Dreams of a Refugee : From the Middle East to Mount Everest (Bloomsbury, 2017) Palestinian-Kuwaiti world mountain climber of seven summits and both pole positions.

 

Yusif Abdallah Sayigh

(edited by Rosemary Sayigh):

Yusif Sayigh  : Arab Economist, Palestinian Patriot – A Fractured Life Story  (American University in Cairo Press, 2015)

 

Nabil Sha’ath aka Nabeel Shaath (long-time Palestinian negotiator, Fatah Central Committee)

My Life from Nakba to Revolution (unconfirmed in English, 2016)

 

Bassam Abu Sharif

Arafat and the Dream of Palestine : An Insider’s Account (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) Author gets a central role, not Abu Ammar, but a good read nonetheless.

 

Raja Shehadeh

A Rift in Time : Travels with My Ottoman Uncle (Profile Books, 2010)

Occupation Diaries (Profile Books, 2012)

Strangers in the House (Steerforth Press, 2002 / Profile Books, 2003, 2009)

Palestinian Walks : Notes on a Vanishing Landscape  (Profile Books, 2007) A moving and beautifully written account of the author’s walks in his native hills, spanning 27 years, and witnessing the devastating impact of illegal Israeli settlements on the people and the landscape of the West Bank.  Winner of the Orwell Prize 2008. – NF

When the Bulbul Stopped Singing : A Diary of Ramallah under Siege (Profile Books, 2002)

The Sealed Room : Selections from the Diary of a Palestinian Living under Israeli

Occupation, September 1990 – August 1991 (Quartet, 1992)

Occupier’s Law :  Israel and the West Bank (Washington, DC : Institute for Palestine Studies, 1985)

Samed : Journal of a West Bank Palestinian (New York : Adama Books, 1984)

Note : see also the chapter titled Limestone, in Robert McFarlane’s walking travel book, The Old Ways : A Journey on Foot (Hamish Hamilton, 2012)

 

Faris al-Shidyaq

Leg over Leg  (Two Volumes, Translated by Humphrey Davies – travel, UK and France / NYUP, 2012)  Leg Over Leg is the semi-autobiographical account of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a pivotal figure in the intellectual and literary history of the modern Arab world. His adventures and misadventures provided him with opportunities for wide-ranging digressions on the intellectual and social issues of his time, including the ignorance and corruption of the Lebanese religious and secular establishments, women’s rights, the manners and customs of Europeans and Middle Easterners, and the differences between European and Arabic literature.   It was initially widely condemned for its attacks on authority, its skepticism, and “obscenity,” and later editions were often abridged. This is the very first English translation of the work and reproduces the original edition.

 

Salman Abu Sitta

Mapping My Return : A Palestinian Memoir (IB Tauris, due 2016)  Memories of the famous polymath who has single-handedly made available crucial mapping work on Palestine, and contains back-story to his lifetime cartographic effort.  Equally important are political and personal insights not found elsewhere.  No index.

 

Richard Stubbs and Ann Swithenbank

Palestine Story : A Personal Account of the Last Three Years of British Rule in Palestine  (Brettenham, Suffolk : Thurston Publications “Private Publication,” 208 pages, 1995)  British Mandate Government’s news-spinner’s account, dictated in 1948.

 

Raedi Taha

A Single Metre  – Ali, a biog of her father Ali Taha (2002); short stories also.

 

Jamil I. Toubbeh

Day of the Long Night : A Palestinian Refugee Remembers the Nakba  (Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Co, 1998) Christian Palestinian’s account.

 

Fadwa Tuqan

A Mountainous Journey : An Autobiography -translated by Olive Kenny / with poetry translated by Naomi Shihab Nye; editor Salma Khadra Jayyusi (London : Women’s Press / / St Paul, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, 1990)   See also : Al-Fateh poetry and plus numerous collections in Arabic.

 

Fawaz Turki

Soul in Exile : Lives of a Palestinian Revolutionary (Monthly Review Press, 1988)

The Disinherited  – Journal of a Palestinian Exile (Monthly Review Press, 1972)

 

Hanan Ashwari (Palestinian legislator and author)

This Side of Peace : A Personal Account  (Fourth Estate /Simon & Schuster, 1995)

with other authors : Our Jerusalem  (Jerusalem : Middle East Publications, 1995)

Ebba Augustin, editor : Palestinian Women – Identity and Experience  (Zed Books, 1993)

See also : Barbara Victor A Voice of Reason : Hanan Ashwari and Peace in the Middle East (Harcourt Brace, 1994); also published as Hanan Ashwari : A Passion for Peace (Fourth Estate, 1995) Anglican Christian who was the first woman elected to the Palestinian National Council.

 

 

Farouq Wadi
Homes of the Heart : A Ramallah Chronicle
 Translated by Dina Bosio and Christopher Tingley (Northampton, Massachusetts : Interlink Publishing, 2007)
Returning to his home town of Ramallah after long exile, the author is shocked to find the changes wrought, above all, by the Israeli occupation. An account—informative, lyrical and humorous by turn—of his own early life in the town.

 

Emma Williams

It’s Easier to Reach Heaven than the End of the Street : A Jerusalem Memoir  (Bloomsbury, 2006)     In August 2000 Emma Williams arrived with her three small children in Jerusalem to join her husband and to work as a doctor. A month later, the second Palestinian intifada erupted. For the next three years, she was to witness an astonishing series of events in which hundreds of thousands of lives, including her own, were turned upside down.    Williams lived on the very border of East and West Jerusalem, working with Palestinians in Ramallah during the day and spending evenings with Israelis in Tel Aviv. Weaving personal stories and conversations with friends and colleagues into the long and fraught political background, Williams’ powerful memoir brings to life the realities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She vividly recalls giving birth to her fourth child during the siege of Bethlehem and her horror when a suicide bomber blew his own head into the schoolyard where her children played each day.   Understanding in her judgment, yet unsparing in her honesty, Williams exposes the humanity, as well as the hypocrisy at the heart of both sides’ experiences. Anyone wanting to understand this intractable and complex dispute will find this unique account a refreshing and an illuminating read.    Emma Williams studied history at Oxford and medicine at London University. She has worked as a doctor in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York, South Africa and Jerusalem. She wrote for several newspapers and magazines about Palestinian-Israeli affairs and was a correspondent for the Spectator from 2000-2003. She now lives in New York.

 

Ofra Yeshua-Lyth (Journalist with Ma’ariv)

Politically Incorrect : Why a Jewish State is a Bad Idea (Skyscraper Books, 2016)   Although in part a memoir of family and professional life, this book is revealing for the attitudes and contradictions which go to the heart of the exclusivity that threads through the Jewish Israeli society.  Cultural quarter-tones sing from the pages.

The Case for a Secular New Jerusalem – A Memoir (Createspace, 2014)  Translation from Hebrew of Erietz, Brith (Nimrod, 2004)

 

[Wael Zuaiter – aka Zwaiter – translator, PLO representative in Italy, assassinated in London, for retribution for Munich atrocity, 1972]

For a Palestinian : A Memorial to Wael Zuiter  -edited by Janet Venn-Brown (Kegan Paul International, 1984)

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