Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (ed. Zahra Hankir)

Our Women on the Ground - on the ground

a nutshell: an extraordinary, ground-breaking, and pulsingly intimate collection of essays by 19 Arab women journalists – rather than meeting my high expectations, it soared above & beyond them

a line“We don’t publish the picture. It’s too graphic, and people are too sensitive. Those of us who count as people, with sensibilities” – Natacha Yazbeck

an image: born in Iraq and raised in Hull, Hind Hassan recalls many beautiful scenes of hospitality in the unlikeliest circumstances during assignments in her homeland, as well as a memory from the Iraqi community in which she grew up: a friend secretly slipping in & out of an ajar window to clean and cook for the whole family while Hind’s mother was having birth complications

a thought: I was fascinated by Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah’s reflections on her journey towards activating a “belated lens on gender” in her work, particularly her thoughts on the duality of selves (in the family home and the “street home”) and on power both inside & outside the newsroom – its complexity and, at times, invisibility

a fact: many of the women’s stories include the trauma of losing family, friends and colleagues to conflict zones or political repression, and it’d be remiss not to mention the very real risks they face just for doing their job – I hope their voices resound worldwide

N.B. Amira Al-Sharif’s chapter Yemeni Women with Fighting Spirits is my recommendation for writing by a woman from Yemen; as its title suggests, it’s a unique insight into resilience and empowerment in even the most trying conditions

want to read Our Women on the Ground? visit here

Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights Under Siege by Amira Hass (tr. Maxine Nunn)

drinking the sea at gaza book on blue blanket

a nutshell: an Israeli reporter reflects on what she saw and heard while living in Gaza, from moments of abject grief to resilient humour

a line: at one point Hass describes leaving her friends’ house in Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, where her friends had no running water during the day and only a limited supply of salty water at other times; she reaches the Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim and drinks from a restroom tap – “Sweet and refreshing, the free-flowing water still had an aftertaste, the bitter flavor – I couldn’t help but imagine – of apartheid”

an image: Hass describes mangled heaps of rubble (homes demolished as a ‘deterrent’) as bearing witness to the ravaged lives of Gaza’s people like the rings of a tree trunk marking the passage of time

a thought: the chapter about the agony of obtaining exit permits for families suffering with ill-health is harrowing to read, particularly the sections on injured/unwell children in need of treatment

a fact: Hass’s desire to live in Gaza stemmed from the dread of being a bystander – a legacy of her mother’s memory of some German women looking with indifferent curiosity as she was herded from a cattle car to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1944; to Hass, Gaza embodies the central contradiction of the State of Israel, that is, democracy for some, dispossession for others

want to read Drinking the Sea at Gaza? visit here

The Sea Cloak by Nayrouz Qarmout (tr. Charis Bredin)

I read this short story in The Book of Gaza (ed. Atef Abu Saif)

a nutshell: a sensory snapshot of relationships in Gaza – under the strain of society’s prying eyes

a line: “The noise of the past would grant her no respite”

an image: a littered beach is beautified by an allusion to dreaming souls sheltering within the scattered tents; Nayrouz describes Gaza as a young girl yet to learn the art of elegance

a thought: even when thrown into a crisis, a woman’s fear of shame controls her actions

a fact: the challenge of copying & transporting a story from Gaza to Jerusalem’s publishing houses led to the short story form blossoming, so much so that Gaza became known in Palestinian circles abroad as ‘the exporter of oranges and short stories’ 

*bonus fact*: unfamiliar with the term ‘nargila’, I looked it up to find it was the Hebrew word for hookah, rooted in the Sanskrit for ‘coconut’ – which suggests early hookahs were hewn from coconut shells

 

want to read The Book of Gaza? visit here