Five young authors who contributed to our new book Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestineparticipated in a global Google Hangout event last night. Co-hosted byJust World Books and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) this live video broadcast allowed Rawan Yaghi, Jehan Alfarra, Yousef Aljamal, and Nour El Borno plus the editor Refaat Alareer to interact in a conversation facilitated by Helena Cobban andMike Merryman-Lotze. From locations around the world, including the special appearance of Nour from inside Gaza, these young people discussed the process of writing fiction as a form of resistance to the Israeli occupation, and the effects of Israel’s 2008–9 offensive on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) on their writing. More than 100 people tuned in to watch the Hangout live, and it is now available to view as a video online here.
The hour-and-fifteen minute dialogue began with the book’s editor Refaat Alareer describing how he became interested in fiction writing as a medium to convey universal feelings and messages, because articles and news pieces quickly lose interest while works of literature can endure much longer. He curated the 23 pieces included in Gaza Writes Back from dozens of submissions from his English class students and others writing in their second language about life in Palestine. One contributor, Rawan Yaghi, read an excerpt from her story “Spared,” one of three pieces she contributed to the book. This moving piece recounts the survivor’s guilt faced by a young girl who was watching her friends playing soccer in the street before a bomb exploded around them. Nour El Borno also read a moving excerpt, from her story entitled “A Wish for Insomnia,” that takes the perspective of an Israeli soldier suffering post-traumatic stress and nightmares from his time in the army.
Yousef Aljamal explained how his story “Omar X” evolved from an article he had written about the death of his brother Omar into the stunning fictionalized account found in Gaza Writes Back. Jehan Alfarra talked a bit about how she started writing, admitting she never thought she’d be published in a book but she felt a particular obligation as a Palestinian from Gaza to put into words the reality of life there, since the world isn’t hearing these messages in the mainstream media. The young writers answered several questions from viewers via email and Twitter, including one that inquired, “Do you all still have hope?” Refaat replied emphatically that the people in Gaza must “live on hope” and resist the ongoing siege and occupation by Israel in what ways they can, including the writers’ approach of crafting incredible short stories to help a worldwide audience understand better the circumstances facing those who live in Gaza.
The session concluded with several suggestions for how viewers can take action. First, the contributors urged people to buyGaza Writes Back, and share the book and the video with friends and colleagues to raise awareness about the struggles facing Palestinians. Secondly, Americans can contact their members of Congress to put pressure on Israel to end their blockade of Gaza using the AFSC form here. Lastly, several contributors to the book will be visiting the United States this spring for a book tour, so stay tuned to learn more about locations and dates.