Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
10:43 pm EDT
Monday, May 23, 2022

BOOK CLUB: Mornings in Jenin — The Saga of a Palestinian Family

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STORY: Kathy Porter

This powerful and often heart-wrenching novel tells the story of a Palestinian family over four generations. The Abulheja family has grown olives and figs for centuries in their small village east of Haifa. As the new state of Israel is formed in 1948, the Abulheja family is forcibly removed from their home and placed in a refugee camp.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Amal, a young girl who experiences the terror of war, the death of loved ones, and the loss of a way of life. As we follow Amal through the decades, we rejoice in her successes and weep for her sorrows. The writing is exquisite and envelopes the reader.

Sally Melton, facilitator par excellence, led a thought-provoking discussion as we delved into the traditions and lives of this Muslim family, as well as the political aspects of the novel. Book club members struggled a bit with the Arabic names and terms and were grateful for the glossary.

The group did not consider the book anti-Semitic. In fact, they were delighted by the boyhood friendship of Amal’s father and a Jewish boy whose family fled Nazi Germany. This friendship proved to be invaluable in later years.

The group also focused on the consequences of the kidnapping of Amal’s infant brother Ismael by an Israeli soldier. Named David by his Israeli family, he is then raised as a Jew and only learns of his Palestinian heritage many years later.

A number of members voiced concern about how the establishment of an Israeli state to be a sanctuary for Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe could, in reality, cause so much pain and suffering. The group was captured by the irony of the book and how victims of Nazi persecution became the perpetrators of violence toward Palestinians.

It is important to understand this novel is fiction. But it does present historically accurate details. However, it is written from the Palestinian viewpoint, a voice we almost never hear. This book serves to help us understand why there is still so much conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


About the Author

Susan Abulhawa was born in 1970 to refugees of the Six-Day War of 1967. After her parents’ marriage ended, Abulhawa lived with relatives in the U.S., Jordan, and Kuwait. She was ultimately sent to an orphanage, where she remained until the age of 13. She was then sent to the U.S. and raised as a foster child in North Carolina. Abulhawa graduated from Pfeiffer University with a degree in Biology and earned a master’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Although she continues to write for medical journals and drug companies, she has ventured into journalism, poetry, and fiction. Abulhawa has contributed essays to the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is also the author of several anthologies. Mornings in Jenin is her first novel. Abulhawa founded and is president of Playgrounds for Palestine, which builds playgrounds in refugee camps in Palestine and Lebanon. She resides in Pennsylvania with her daughter.
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The Next Meeting

The Bookworm Book Club will meet June 17 to discuss The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. Club chair Kathy Porter can be contacted by phone at 352.259.8196 or email at kathymporter@comcast.net.

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