Daily lives and cruel choices under occupation

Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian WomenQissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women by Jo Glanville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

These twelve stories are diverse in every way but one: they are all by women whose lives have been distorted by the loss of a homeland they can call their own, whether their own remembered loss or that of their elders. Some of the authors are exiles too young to have known Palestine and who write in English, for others expulsion is a compulsive, constant memory, while some endure and write from within the occupied territories and in its language. They are all worth reading, to gain an understanding of the costs of exile and occupation, in Palestine and in other parts of the world. Those experiences present people with cruel choices of collaboration, resignation, or resistance, of saving one's livelihood and family or one's dignity. It is never clear which is the truer choice or the more honorable.

To my mind, the most affecting story is by Lina Badr, a novelist and short-story writer in Arabic, living in Ramallah (and active in cultural affairs of the Palestinian Authority), "Other cities." Jordanian-born Umm Hasan ("mother of Hasan"), mother of six, dreams obsessively of spending a few days away from little Hebron, one of the most intensely occupied and harassed towns controlled by the Israelis, to the relative freedom of Palestinian-administered Ramallah; but she is married to a totally unsupportive cousin (Abu Hasan, "father of Hasan") who has not bothered or not dared to get her the necessary Israeli papers to legalize her status in the occupied territories, and she as the wife is not permitted to apply on her own. Passage from one town to the other, though only a few kilometers apart, requires passing through multiple Israeli checkpoints, which will require credentials, and she cannot imagine leaving her six children behind — for shame and because Abu Hasan certainly wouldn't take care of them; how she manages to achieve her modest goal, and incidentally embarrass an Israeli captain who has held up the travelers out of boredom or spite, not only describes some of the multiple indignities under the occupation but also hints at the moral damage it inflicts on the occupiers.

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