New Delhi: Susan Abulhawa was born to refugees of the Six-Day War of 1967, when her family’s land was seized and Israel captured what remained of Palestine, including Jerusalem.
Now, this Palestinian American writer and activist has come out with a powerful, furious, beautiful book on sex, power, persecution, violation, survival, and resistance.
“Against The Loveless World” (Bloomsbury) , which has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book Award, is about Nahr, who has been confined an Israeli prison named the Cube: nine square metres of glossy grey cinderblock, devoid of time, its patterns of light and dark nothing to do with day and night.
Journalists visit her, but get nowhere; because Nahr is not going to share her story with them. The world outside calls Nahr a terrorist, and a whore; some might call her a revolutionary, or a hero. But the truth is, Nahr has always been many things, and had many names.
She was named for the river her pregnant mother crossed when she fled from Palestine, but her feckless father called her Yaqoot, Ruby. For a time when she came of age she was Almas, Diamond, a girl who went to hidden parties in Kuwait with powerful men, who sold off parts of herself to keep her family together.
She was a girl who learned, early and painfully, that when you are a second class citizen love is a kind of desperation; she learned, above all else, to survive.
She was a girl who went to Palestine in the wrong shoes, and without looking for it found what she had always lacked in the basement of a battered beauty parlour: purpose, politics, friends. She found a dark-eyed man called Bilal, who taught her to resist; who tried to save her when it was already too late.
Nahr sits in the Cube, and tells her story to Bilal. Bilal, who isn’t there; Bilal, who may not even be alive, but who is her only reason to get out.
It’s a revealing, albeit surrealistic, journey into the mind of a lost and tormented soul.
Abulhawa moved to the US as a teenager, graduated in biomedical science and established a career in medical science. In July 2001, she founded Playgrounds for Palestine, a children’s organisation dedicated to upholding The Right to Play for Palestinian children, and her essays and political commentaries have appeared in print and international news media.
She is the author of two novels, “Mornings in Jenin”, which was an international bestseller, and “The Blue Between Sky and Water”, and a book of poems. She lives in Pennsylvania with her daughter.