Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood

Ibtisam Barakat, Author
Ibtisam Barakat, Author . FSG/Kroupa $16 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-35733-7
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-4299-9847-5
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-84-8343-070-5
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This rare and timely memoir tracks Barakat's amazing story of survival, largely through her belief in the power of words to heal: "Stories may inspire us to join hearts and minds so that, with our collective wisdom, a solution for this conflict—and any other—is possible." As this haunting book opens, Israeli soldiers haul Ibtisam, then a teenager, off a bus in the West Bank in 1981 and detain her without explanation. Ibtisam secretly risks these trips out of her village in order to visit a post office box, where she receives letters from international pen pals—her only link to a saner, safer world. While detained, she flashes back to details of the Six-Day War, in poetic yet searing prose. Ibtisam was little more than three years old when her family fled Ramallah in 1967 to a refugee camp in Jordan, and her memory of it, in a chapter called "Shoelaces," brims with tension and emotion. The narrator's understated tone lacks self-pity and thus allows readers to witness her fear and hope. She poignantly relates the Palestinian experience to that of street dogs: "I knew that they were dying and that they had come to our door only because, like us, they were seeking refuge. But instead of understanding, we shot at them, the way the warplanes shot at us." Ibtisam's reverence for language informs nearly everything she does, and it keeps her alive, whether corresponding with her pen pals or crafting this memoir: "a thread/ of a story/ stitches together/ a wound." Ages 12-up. (May)

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